Each year, MenuMasters honors excellence in culinary innovation, celebrating those in the foodservice industry who have raised the bar on the customer dining experience. The 2018 MenuMasters awards celebrates the delicious, imaginative food being developed across the industry - from quick service to fine dining, and at universities and supermarkets - and recognizes those who are meeting the ever-changing demands of consumers taste-buds by challenging the status quo. Annually, Nation's Restaurant News (NRN) presents and Ventura Foods sponsors the awards that honor outstanding menu research and development. NRN editors evaluate and select the winners they deem to have significant impact on the foodservice industry.

This year's winners are regional QSR titans, Del Taco and Sonic. Del Taco's new Epic Queso Chicken Burrito earned them Best New Menu Item honors while Sonic's Signature Slinger blended burger made with 25 percent cooked mushrooms catapulted them to the top of the Best Limited Time Offer category. Bar Fogo at Fogo de Chao was recognized for their new more casual, lower-priced bar menu. Walk-on Bistro, a 17-unit casual dining chain based in Baton Rouge, La., was celebrated for their innovative line extension that included kids' items, signature drinks and distinctive dishes that highlight the regional chain's Cajun heritage. The University of Connecticut Department of Dining Services was recognized for their Healthy & Lean Bean Pasta Dishes. And, to celebrate their trendsetting approach to hospitality and culinary innovation, The Kroger Company was acknowledged for their own restaurant concept, Kitchen 1883.

Two chefs were also honored this year: Fabio Viviani and Daniel Boulud. Viviani was celebrated for trailblazing the concept of Italian fast-casual dining with his Mercato pasta-and-pizza concept and full-service restaurants, Cafe Firenze and Siena Tavern. As a highly acclaimed, award winning chef, Boulud received the prestigious MenuMasters Hall of Fame award for his many years of culinary innovation.

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