Fazoli's President and CEO Carl Howard has been named the No. 1 restaurant executive on the list of the "top 100 movers and shakers" compiled by the trade website FastCasual.com and other industry executives.
Howard has been chief executive of Lexington-based Fazoli's since 2008.
Readers of FastCasual.com nominated more than 900 restaurant brands, executives, technologies and trends for top 100 consideration. Its report was released this week.
Smashburger, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Fazoli's were recognized as the top three brands. The top menu trend was bite-size food and snacks. The most influential technology trend went to mobile apps.
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Greg Creighton, chief operating officer of Denver-based Smashburger, said the appetite for better burgers than those offered by fast-food outlets was "the reason we are 267 units in seven short years. We plan to have about 400 restaurants open by the end of next year." The chain has two stores in Lexington.
Fazoli's introduced a new fast casual restaurant concept, Venti Tre Modern Italian, earlier this year. The first location opened in Baltimore in March, and two more locations are being developed.
The fast casual segment is driving the majority of growth in the restaurant industry, according to Fastcasual.com, which cited numbers from Technomic consulting. Fast-casual restaurants sell food that is a step up from fast food, but customers still order and pay at a counter.
Fazoli's is owned by Florida-based Sun Capital Partners. The first Fazoli's opened in Lexington in 1988. Fazoli's now has 220 company-owned and franchised restaurants.