The 10 Most Innovative People

  • In a segment crowded by competition, these are the 10 people who matter most.

    Jeff HarveyJeff Harvey inhabits a world where innovation is the rule, not the exception.

    Charged with bringing profitability and long-term growth strategies to Burgerville, the 39-unit gourmet burger chain based in Vancouver, Washington, the affable CEO has brought several innovations to the chain since joining the company in 2004. Though it already had a solid reputation for embracing sustainable values, under Harvey’s leadership it continues to push that envelope by increasing its base of local suppliers and offering more seasonal items.

    Since its inception in 1961, the company has always maintained a commitment to fresh, local, and sustainable offerings through partnerships with local businesses, farms, and producers. It is a process the CEO wholeheartedly embraces and continues to grow.

    In 2009 he introduced beer and wine, as well as monthly specials inspired by a fresh, seasonal ingredient.

    Harvey also opened up the drive thrus to bicycles and introduced a mobile food truck, the Nomad.

    “The Nomad food truck came from seeing a lot of well-trained chefs opening up their own food carts,” Harvey says. “I was struck by the vision of opportunity they saw, and it started me thinking about what street food meant to the rest of the world. I saw a huge loyalty among the patrons.”

    Harvey also introduced a pilot program that lets customers know the nutritional value of their order when they receive the receipt.

    In addition to overseeing the chain’s many food-related innovations, Harvey has been responsible for “greening” Burgerville’s restaurants, making them more energy efficient to operate.

    Converting used trans fat–free cooking oil into biodiesel fuel, expanding its leadership development training, implementing recycling and composting programs, creating an affordable employee health care program, and encouraging the company-wide use of wind power are just some of the initiatives that have left competitors scratching their heads.

    Harvey, whose background is in electrical engineering, is a self-described “information hound” and a “a lifelong student of transformation.”

    “We’ve all had experience with incremental change, but transformational change is something very different. At Burgerville we believe your best strategy is an innovative strategy.”

    It’s a safe bet that Harvey already is working on the next chapter in Burgerville’s “transformational change.” And if you’re wondering where his next innovation might come from, wonder no more.

    “I am really intrigued these days with packaging, and I have been paying close attention to delivery models, or how you get the food to the guests.”

    Fred DeLucaA true entrepreneur since the age of 17, Fred DeLuca doesn’t shy away from innovation.

    As cofounder and president of Milford, Connecticut–based Subway, DeLuca isn’t afraid to take risks or listen to the advice of others.

    “The owners of our 32,000 stores share a tremendous entrepreneurial spirit, so innovation comes naturally to them,” DeLuca says. “So we’ve built local option capability into the Subway system. That allows many different owners the ability to experiment simultaneously.”

    And many of those experiments have hit pay dirt.

    “The ideas are constantly flowing, and some of them have had lasting effects for the entire chain,” he says. “For instance, Subway’s ‘$5 Footlong’ campaign was started by a franchisee, and within a year it became a national promotion.”

    Since 1965, Subway has had a healthier menu than many other quick-serve operations. Through the years DeLuca further established that healthy halo with marketing efforts such as the Jared Fogle commercials, which touted Fogle’s 245-pound weight loss from eating a six-inch Subway sandwich at every meal.

    This year’s tie-in with the Biggest Loser television show further solidifies the sandwich chain’s marriage with a healthful image. The chain is paying $1,000 for every pound contestant Shay Sorrells loses.

    Now with more than 32,400 stores in 91 countries, Subway continues to roll out new initiatives to keep up with a demanding marketplace.

    A Buffalo Chicken submarine sandwich, with only seven grams of fat, was introduced last year, as well as the company’s new mobile site, which has a restaurant locator with a map function.

    The brand also joined Energy Star, which is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy, encouraging businesses and homes to conserve energy. To that end, Subway relocated several distribution centers next to vendor manufacturers, switched to energy-saving light bulbs, and made its napkins from 100 percent recycled materials.

    The innovations keep coming from inside the franchisee community, and DeLuca couldn’t be more proud.

    “A franchisee developed one of our newest and most unique stores, which is now about 100 feet in the air in the Freedom Tower construction site at the World Trade Center,” DeLuca says. “That store moves 15 feet higher every few weeks as the steelwork is put in place. That innovation keeps the food close to the construction workers as the building is built, saving time and money.

    “Another store was built in a church in Buffalo, where the pastor uses the store to provide job training for local youngsters.”