NRA “Buzzed About Brands” Awards


National Restaurant Association

—At its recent annual spring conference earlier this month in Chicago, the National Restaurant Association”s Marketing Executives Group (NRA, MEG) announced the winners of its new Buzzed About Brands award. Those honored at this year’s inaugural event were The Protein Bar, Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe, and Wahlburgers.

Representatives from these brands, which were selected for their innovative and inspiring approach in creating a buzz among consumers, participated in a panel discussion where attendees were privy to the programs and tactics each is using. Audience members were able to ask questions of the panel, which was moderated by Kelly Smith Killian, executive editor of Restaurant Business.

Analisa Terenzio, director of sales and marketing for The Protein Bar, shared how in a very short span of time her company has established itself as a leader in simple, fast and delicious healthy fare for those on the go. Jim Keet, CEO and president of Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe, said that what sets his brand apart is its authenticity. And Rick Vanzura, CEO of Wahlburgers, told the audience how his brand’s celebrity cache is secondary to the quality of its menu and hybrid setting with one side offering full service and the other offering quick service. While each has created a buzz that is unique to their brand, the one common thread shared by all is the expansion into new markets.

“The MEG Executive Board created Buzzed About Brands as a way to recognize those brands that are helping to elevate the level of restaurant marketing,” said MEG Executive Board Member Clay Dover, chief marketing officer for Raising Cane’s. “These are innovative brands that are generating excitement with consumers by thinking outside the traditional realms of marketing – and it’s working.”

Buzzed About Brands will be an annual recognition that takes place at MEG’s spring conference in Chicago. In order to be considered, a restaurant brand must meet some or all of the following criteria:
-Connect with consumers by generating excitement garnering the attention of the Industry via traditional and/or social media
-Teach us to crack new avenues for generating business or find new ways to win the attention of private equity firms and other financing sources
-Inspire their restaurant peers with their programs, exposure or success
-Challenge restaurateurs to developing creative programs by thinking outside the box
-Elevate the level of excellence in restaurant marketing
-Be willing to share their brand story to the attendees at the annual MEG Spring Conference with a 10-15 minute presentation with Q&A

A panel of judges, who are members of MEG, will accept nominations from industry marketing professionals, including those who are Friends of MEG, and present their recommendations to MEG’s Executive Board during the spring planning meeting. The Executive Board will then review the panel’s recommendations and make a final selection as to which three brands will be recognized during MEG’s annual Spring Conference.

“MEG is about fostering relationships and connecting with your peers,” added Dover. “Is another brand is doing something innovative, they should be recognized for it. And, in turn, the rest of us can learn from them, pick their brains, and be inspired.”

MEG, which meets twice annually, will convene next in Atlanta on October 27 and 28. For more information, go to

Posted by Meghan Ogilvie

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