Hospitality Technology Announces 2021 MURTEC Breakthrough Award Winners

Little Caesars, El Pollo Loco and Amara at Paraiso take top honors in awards recognizing outstanding achievement in restaurant technology innovation and application.

Hospitality Technology (HT) magazine is proud to announce the winners of the 2021 MURTEC Breakthrough Awards. Sponsored by Fortinet, the 2021 awards were presented earlier today at the MURTEC Executive Summit, taking place at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando, Fla., from October 13-15.

The 2021 MURTEC Breakthrough Award winners are: El Pollo Loco (Customer Engagement Innovator), Little Caesars  (Enterprise Innovator) and Amara at Paraiso (Enterprise Innovator).



El Pollo Loco’s impressive list of accomplishments include: piloting door-to-backyard drone delivery, an updated loyalty program; adding GPS-enabled curbside pick-up; and rolling out a new restaurant of the future design that emphasizes off-premise convenience and includes a double drive-thru option, to name a few. These initiatives illustrate the LA Mex restaurant’s continuous digital evolution and focus on customer convenience and efficiency through technology.


Little Caesars developed a brand-new cloud-based architecture. The CV Cloud platform equips franchise owners and store operators with a system that would not only support, but also help grow and accelerate their business.  The decision to design and build a custom store platform was rooted in the desire to retain the brand’s unique market position and competitive advantage, but also to equip the business with a system that would scale and adapt to changing needs of customers and operators. This is the Detroit-based pizza chain’s second trip to the winners circle. In 2019, Little Caesars received the MURTEC Breakthrough Award -  Customer Engagement Innovator for its Reserve-N-Ready strategy including its self-service mobile order pick-up station, better known as the Pizza Portal. 

a resort near the water

Amara at Paraiso is an upscale restaurant in Miami from a James Beard Award-winning chef named Michael Schwartz. Amara implemented a first-of-its-kind AI (named ELROY) that connected its front-of-house employees in real-time to reduce workload and increase efficiency via a credit card sized NFC employee mobile device called an EMU. It was paired with an advanced health bracelet that monitored, with complete privacy, employee vitals including stress to help diminish burnout and more. Amara also used interactive 3D modeling in conjunction with the employee efficiency and accountability technology to find blind spots and enhance routing of employees. These tools have become even more critical with the current labor crisis. Amara chose to use technology to enhance -- rather than replace -- the human element. With this technology, Amara has empowered its employees to work easier, smarter and happier. 



This year’s competition attracted a large number of entries, judged by HT’s advisory board and editorial staff, yielding three honorable mentions: Firehouse SubsJersey Mike’s and Taffer’s Tavern.

These six companies will be featured in the upcoming winter issue of Hospitality Technology magazine.

“This year’s Breakthrough Award winners further demonstrate that restaurant technology is now a straight-up revenue driver,” says Robert Firpo-Cappiello, editor-in-chief of Hospitality Technology magazine. “From reimagining off-prem with drones and GPS to building a scalable cloud-based store platform and enhancing workflow with AI, this cutting-edge tech transcends the ‘capital expenditure’ label — it’s truly taken center stage.”

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 2021 and judged by the HT editorial staff and its Advisory Board on the basis of innovation, thought leadership, execution and results.

“Restaurant operators had to quickly adapt to new business models while meeting ever changing customer demands safely and securely,” said Courtney Radke, National CISO for Retail and Hospitality at Sunnyvale, California-based Fortinet.  “Congratulations to those that leaned in and used technology to not only survive but thrive during this challenging time!  We are equally honored and proud to be the sponsor of this year’s MURTEC Breakthrough Awards and look forward to honoring all in person this week in Orlando.”


Past Breakthrough Award Winners Include:

        Panera Bread (2019)

        Firehouse Subs (2019)

        Little Caesars  (2019)

        TGI Friday’s (2018)

        McAlister’s Deli (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)

        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)

        T.G.I. Friday's (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)



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 eight 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 www.hospitalitytech.comHospitality Technology is published by EnsembleIQ, headquartered in Chicago.


About Fortinet

Fortinet (NASDAQ: FTNT) secures the largest enterprise, service provider, and government organizations around the world. Fortinet empowers its customers with intelligent, seamless protection across the expanding attack surface and the power to take on ever-increasing performance requirements of the borderless network—today and into the future. Only the Fortinet Security Fabric architecture can deliver security without compromise to address the most critical security challenges, whether in networked, application, cloud, or mobile environments. Fortinet ranks number one in the most security appliances shipped worldwide and more than 500,000 customers trust Fortinet to protect their businesses.  Learn more at

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