While Plato may have been thinking of a better delivery system for hemlock, in the modern world his words still ring true. In restaurant parlance, the necessity may just prove to be a profit margin. After all, vanity projects and underworld hang-outs aside, restaurants cannot survive for long without a healthy profit margin.

The potential for longer-term cost savings has been a tremendous motivator for operators choosing to invest in innovative solutions, the National Restaurant Association reported during its recent Restaurant Innovation Summit.

In the area of energy savings alone, utilities account for 3 percent to 8 percent of a typical restaurant's cost of operation, according to the NRA's data. That's why the NRA reports between 55 percent and 71 percent of foodservice operators, depending on restaurant type, plan to invest in energy-saving kitchen equipment.

FE&S' 2014 Operators Forecast Study further corroborates these numbers by virtue of the fact that 75 percent of respondents agree with the statement that "investing in energy-efficient technology will improve my operation's bottom line."

World-renowned British author Charles Leadbeater, in a 2007 TED Talk entitled "The Era of Open Innovation" made the point that innovation rarely comes from the places we expect. It usually happens as a result of collaboration between actual users and producers. Leadbeater illustrates this by relaying the story of the origination of a concept: a group of highly motivated northern California kids, purely for their own entertainment, created what has grown into a multibillion dollar industry by cobbling together parts from different available bikes and motorcycles into what we now recognize as a mountain bike. 

In that spirit, as you read this issue of FE&S, you will find the stories behind ten innovative restaurant chains. We hope their stories will motivate you to seek the kind of open collaboration that can inspire real change and improve your bottom line whether you are an operator, consultant, dealer, rep, service agent or manufacturer. Further, be sure to check out this month's Parting Shot, where David Hillin of Curtis Restaurant Supply discusses how his company has embraced the concept of going green while looking for ways to increase the productivity and profitability of his company.