Panera Bread, Firehouse Subs and Little Caesars honored for outstanding technology innovation.


Hospitality Technology Announces 2019 MURTEC Breakthrough Award Winners

Anna Wolfe
Senior Editor - Restaurants
Anna Wolfe  profile picture

Hospitality Technology (HT) magazine is proud to announce the winners of the 2019 MURTEC Breakthrough Awards. Sponsored by NovaDine, an enterprise-class digital and mobile ordering solution provider to the restaurant industry, the 2019 awards will be presented at the MURTEC Executive Summit, taking place October 28-30 at the Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The three 2019 MURTEC Breakthrough Award winners are: Little Caesars (Customer Engagement Innovator), Firehouse Subs (Enterprise Innovator) and Panera Bread (Enterprise Innovator). Representatives from these three restaurant brands will provide more details about their winning solutions in individual presentations during the MURTEC Executive Summit.


Little Caesars developed a comprehensive digital ordering solution for its customers, the Pizza Portal. This tech-forward solution combines digital ordering with in-store pickup – it’s a modern solution that appeals to today’s convenience-oriented consumer that prefers off-premise dining.


Firehouse of America LLC created a custom franchise business management software called Fire Cloud, a comprehensive solution where Firehouse Subs franchisees can manage their businesses.

Panera Bread is honored for its custom built point of sale (POS) solution and kitchen display system (KDS) that is  part of its overall omni-channel strategy of providing a consistent and personalized customer experience across all channels. 


“If one word could sum up this year’s winners -- it would be customization,” says Dorothy Creamer, Editor-in-Chief of Hospitality Technology magazine. “The brands being recognized exemplify the importance of purposeful innovation. All the honorees have succeeded in customizing solutions either for their customers’ needs or for the demands of the brand itself. These are key components to a successful technology strategy and ensure that IT doesn’t devolve into solutions in search of a problem. This year’s Breakthrough Award winners are impressive not only for their abilities to solve problems, but also in how they position themselves to be flexible for the next generation of customer and business demands.”

This year’s robust nominee pool also yielded a crop of companies worthy of Honorable Mentions. These notable companies that scored highly with HT’s editorial and advisory board include: Jersey Mike's for its integrated learning management system; Salsaritas for its document management solution and streamlined workforce processing workflow; and Cousins Subs for its implementation of a back-office solution that has saved the company $250,000.

The MURTEC Breakthrough Awards are presented to select restaurant companies that have demonstrated outstanding vision and achievement in operational and guest-facing technologies. Winning companies are chosen based on vision and execution; consideration is given to size, resources and individual market segment benchmarks to ensure that companies from across the industry are recognized. Nominations were collected in Q3 of 2019 and judged by the HT editorial staff and its Advisory Board on the basis of innovation, thought leadership, execution and results.

“With today’s rapid pace of change, the line between restaurants and tech companies are increasingly blurred and innovation is driving business strategy,” says George Istfan, founder of Raleigh, N.C.-based NovaDine. “As the sponsor for this year’s MURTEC Breakthrough Awards, NovaDine is proud to recognize Little Caesars, Firehouse Subs and Panera Bread. All three companies are embracing the digital era we find ourselves in and are leading by example in what is possible when you utilize the latest advancements to remove barriers to next-gen service and operations.”

Past Breakthrough Award Winners

McAlister’s Deli (2018)

TGI Fridays (2018)

P.F. Chang's (2017)

The ONE Group, LLC (2017)

Twin Peaks Restaurants (2017)

Outback Steakhouse (2016)

Last Call Operating Companies I & II (2016)

Chili’s Grill & Bar (2015)

Firehouse Subs (2015)

Panera Bread (2015)

Truluck Restaurant Group (2014)

Jersey Mike’s Franchising Systems (2014)

Tony Roma’s (2013)

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar (2013)

Legal Sea Foods (2012)

Jersey Mike’s Subs (2012)

Domino's Pizza LLC (2011)

Subway Restaurants (2011)

Tasti D-Lite (2011)

Jack in the Box (2010)

ERJ Dining, LLC (2010)

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar (2010)

Morton's Restaurant Group (2009)

TGI Fridays (2009)

Hard Rock International (2009)

Cara Operations (2008)

uWink (2008)

Marco's Pizza (2008)

Legal Sea Foods (2007)

Ruth's Chris Steakhouse (2007)

Kahala - Cold Stone Creamery (2007)

Jason's Deli (2006)

Noodles & Co (2006)

Buca, Inc. (2006)


Customer Engagement Innovator: Little Caesars 

Known for its “Hot N Ready” Pizzas, Little Caesars wanted to re-establish the relationship with its customers for custom-order pizzas and still give them the benefit of a decreased wait time.  The objective was to efficiently move a guest using digital ordering through the store in 30 seconds or less for digital orders.

Detroit-based Little Caesars will be honored for its Pizza Portal, a complete solution that combines the brand’s digital ordering strategy with the ability for customers to place orders for custom pizzas online and seamlessly pick-up pizzas from self-service kiosks. The Pizza Portal has been a runaway hit. 

“We are delighted to receive this prestigious recognition for the Little Caesars Pizza Portal. We’ve received incredible feedback from our customers about this innovation, and we’re excited to continue to develop new technologies that make their lives even easier,” said Lance Shinabarger, VP Global Infrastructure & Architecture, Little Caesar Enterprises, Inc. & IHI Shared Service.


Enterprise Innovator: Firehouse of America, LLC

Jacksonville, Fla-based Firehouse of America LLC will be  recognized for its custom developed franchise business management platform called Fire Cloud, a comprehensive one-stop-shop for Firehouse Subs franchisees to manage their businesses.

Fire Cloud was developed in partnership with a local web design and development firm and includes more than 20 applications, both custom developed as well as third-party single-sign on (SSO) integrations. With a familiar dashboard layout, the robust software offers business intelligence tools that utilizes sales and transaction data.  It can handle everything from managing product quality issues and to automatically importing daily sales into QuickBooks Online through a custom developed application, utilizing QuickBooks application programming interfaces (APIs). The development of a quality reporting application has given franchisees an easy way to submit product quality issues and the Firehouse QA team the means of monitoring, tracking and communicating with franchisees through a built-in workflow. In 12 months,  franchises have saved more than 6,700 hours in data entry since the application’s deployment.

“Firehouse Subs is honored to be recognized as a 2019 Breakthrough Award recipient.  It’s important for us as a franchisor to not limit our performance by the confines of technology and software that are available but instead, focus on building our own infrastructure.  Be it harnessing meaningful data and analytics to provide a clear picture of performance, or automating processes through advanced applications, when our operators have the tools they need to be successful and are easily accessible, they can spend more time focusing on the guest experience, and that’s the real win,” said Shelly Walsh, Senior Manager of Franchise Programs, Firehouse of America, LLC.


Enterprise Innovator: Panera Bread

St. Louis-based Panera Bread will be recognized for its custom-built point of sale (POS) solution and kitchen display system (KDS) that is tightly integrated with its other systems. It is part of its overall omni-channel strategy of providing a consistent and personalized customer experience across all channels.  Results include a 50% decrease in support costs associated with managing the menu, which is a complex activity given the frequent menu changes and tests.

“Panera is proud to be recognized as a 2019 Breakthrough Award Winner,” said Mike Prusaczyk, VP, Enterprise Architecture and IT Strategy, Panera Bread.  “Our custom built point of sale solution is part of our overall omni-channel strategy of providing a consistent and personalized customer experience across all channels.  Along with our previously recognized digital solutions (2015 Breakthrough Award Winner), the new café technology is another example of how Panera continues to embrace technology to help drive our business forward.” 


About Hospitality Technology

Hospitality Technology (HT) is the only publication dedicated to covering the role of information technology in improving business performance for both hotel and restaurant operators. The Hospitality Technology editorial portfolio includes: a print publication that publishes nine times annually and reaches more than 16,000 hospitality industry executives, three networking and educational events (MURTEC, HT-NEXT and MURTEC Executive Summit), a comprehensive website, e-newsletters, web seminars, and several exclusive annual reports and studies. Hospitality Technology is the parent brand of the Restaurant Technology Network (, a membership community of restaurants and suppliers working together to solve industry challenges by shaping standards and sharing best practices. Visit Hospitality Technology online at Hospitality Technology is published by EnsembleIQ, headquartered in Chicago.


About NovaDine 

NovaDine is an enterprise-class POS integrated digital ordering solution for multi-unit restaurant chains. An innovator in the marketplace, NovaDine is the only digital ordering provider with full menu/order/POS integration to Grubhub, Grubhub at Work, DoorDash, UberEats and Postmates. This bi-directional integration provides real-time automated menu updates and automatic order downloads to/from POS, bypassing the need for multiple tablets and manual order entry. Other NovaDine unique features include patented Group Ordering, just-in-time order production, locker/cubby integration, proximity triggered customer check-in, and POS integrated order throttling. Feature-rich and all-inclusive the NovaDine solution includes full built-in delivery support and driver management, as well as Delivery as a Service (DAAS) integration with Postmates and DoorDash.