Nation's Restaurant News, a leading publication covering the hospitality industry, recently announced the winners of its 11th annual "MenuMasters Awards," which recognize the country's most innovative restaurant companies and chefs. Big Bowl, an inventive Asian chain owned by Chicago's own Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, won the "Menu Trend Setter" award, one of six honors.
The popular Chinese and Thai dining concept, which has eight locations in Chicagoland, suburban Minneapolis and Reston, VA, was highlighted thanks to its metamorphosis from a simple stir-fry restaurant to a leader in authentic menu items and sustainable practices. This gradual shift began four years ago when Lettuce Entertain You repurchased the Big Bowl chain and president Dan McGowan came on board. McGowan put an emphasis on made-from-scratch recipes, as well as sustainable and local ingredients and earth-friendly initiatives such as green cleaning supplies, recyclable paper products and organic cotton uniforms for the waitstaff.
Big Bowl is in good company. The additional MenuMasters Award winners, which are selected by the editors of Nation's Restaurant News, include Chick-fil-A for "Best Menu/Line Extension," Pizza Hut for "Best Menu Revamp," Culver's for "Best New Menu Rollout," Denny's for "Best Limited-Time Offer" (for the chain's "Plain White Shake" inspired by the rock band Plain White T's), Qdoba Mexican Grill for "Healthful Innovations," and celebrity chef David Burke for his use of creative ingredients and cooking techniques employed at his various restaurants, including Chicago's own David Burke's Primehouse.