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NRN Power List reveals top restaurant leaders committed to excellence, inclusion

Top executives help identify up-and-coming power managers, too

A leading industry trade publication for restaurants, Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN), released the 2021 NRN Power List. The collection of industry leaders is a prestigious collection reflecting the 50 most-influential restaurant executives.

The list marks the 9th selection and publication of the NRN Power List, curated by the editors of NRN. According to a statement, the list reflects leaders who demonstrated superior achievement in leading teams and communities, giving back to communities during the hurdles of 2020, and “actively committing to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

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At the top of the list, one finds Paul Brown, chief executive of Inspire Brands, Brian Niccol, chief executive of Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Chip Wade, president of Union Square Hospitality Group, part of the Power group of leaders who model inclusive leadership.

Lisa Jennings, Nation’s Restaurant News executive editor, said, “This year, we looked at businesses that survived — even thrived — over the past year and saw a common thread of strong leadership and unshakeable company culture. But true leadership is never just about one person. It ripples throughout companies and the communities they serve. So we put the spotlight on 25 notable restaurant leaders, and then we asked each of those leaders to point to a Power Player on their team who embodies the mission and values of the organization.”

Below is a sneak peak of this year’s NRN Power List:

  • Paul Brown, CEO, Inspire Brands
  • Brian Niccol, CEO, Chipotle Mexican Grill
  • Chip Wade, president, Union Square Hospitality Group
  • Charlie Morrison, CEO, Wingstop
  • JJ Johnson, chef/owner, FieldTrip
  • Lisa Ingram, CEO, White Castle
  • Pinky Cole, founder, Slutty Vegan ATL
  • Niren Chaudhary, CEO, Panera
  • José Andrés, founder, World Central Kitchen
  • David Deno, CEO, Bloomin’ Brands
  • Karim Webb, Buffalo Wild Wings franchisee and CEO, 4thMVMT
  • Scott and Ally Svenson, co-founders, MOD Pizza
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The Power List was able to identify additional rock stars within their own companies. This created additional layers of franchisees, chefs, regional directors, and store-level managers including a standout 20-year-old restaurant manager for fast-casual chain &Pizza. In doing so, power restaurant executives emphasized a group of leaders that mirrored the ranks, with a concentration of people of color, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community, noted NRN.

“We are using our annual Power List program not only to shine a spotlight on some of the most influential leaders in our business, but also to ask those leaders to join us in widening that spotlight,” said Sarah Lockyer, group director of the Restaurant & Food Group by Informa Connect.

Featured on NRN.com and in the January issue of Nation’s Restaurant News magazine, the Power List is a must read as restaurant industry professionals begin the new year.

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Photo credit: Louis Hansel (featured preview image)

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