Much has been written on the notion of power — what it means, how to acquire it, how to keep it and what to do with it.

Power means different things to different people. It can be obvious and at other times subtle. It can mean size, influence, speed, dominance or simply having a voice.

My favorite, often-quoted description of power comes from Margaret Thatcher, a former prime minister of the United Kingdom: “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”

Why we created The Power List

The industry is changing at a pace never before seen, and with this year’s NRN 50 — undertaken each year to highlight 50 trends, ideas or issues affecting foodservice — we set out to create a definitive list of the 50 most powerful people who are leading and shaping this change.

How we did it

There was no set algorithm, no perfect formula. In an age of instant analytics, we went with our guts. Who better to create a restaurant industry power matrix than NRN, a brand that has authoritatively covered foodservice since 1967?

We started with a virtual white board, listing every person we felt held industry influence. It was then time to shape the list over the course of many meetings, phone calls and e-mails. We wanted to account for every corner of the restaurant industry, from limited service to fine dining and from investment banking to menu development. We wanted to include chief executives from the largest companies as well as a singular Yelp reviewer who could make or break a business.

There were areas of influence we did not include. Media was excluded, as we would understandably — and correctly — be biased toward NRN. Suppliers to the industry were also excluded, even though we know many hold influence over menu development, employee recruiting and training, business performance analytics, and digital innovation.

The last filter we applied was, frankly, some sexiness. We wanted to not only highlight the obvious power players, but also the surprising up-and-comers who are increasingly powerful today in terms of shaping the future of foodservice. We also selected people who hold power over the general business environment, especially as it relates to food and restaurants but are not — think first lady Michelle Obama and Whole Foods’ John Mackey. These power players may have more influence over your business than you would probably like to admit.

The results

With our final list, we broke out the selected power players by area of influence, creating the following groupings:

And finally, we decided to rank a Top 10. Yes, we picked a No. 1; we named the most powerful person in foodservice. You'll have to go to the full report section to find out who that leader is.

I won’t say the creation of this Top 10 led to an all-out brawl, but it did lead to some very healthy debates that continued right up to press time. For the Top 10 ranking, in particular, we polled some sources we highly value, but who will remain anonymous, to lend perspective and provide some gut checks.

As you can imagine, the creation of this definitive list of 50 left a lot of names on the cutting room floor. And I mean a lot. While I’m confident in The Power List, I can’t wait to hear your feedback. Who did we miss? Who should have been No. 1? Who doesn’t qualify?

We’ll be talking about The Power List on NRN.com, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Join us.

Contact Sarah E. Lockyer at sarah.lockyer@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @slockyerNRN.