Voice of the Restaurant Industry
Try adding a spice and essence filling to your knowledge of how to properly conduct food product tests and sample evaluations to best access consumer reaction to new menu items.
The sourcing and development of new products or recipes is often a tortuous journey where testing and approval can turn into a rubber stamp approval session by executives or it can be a tool for knowledge and for profit.
To a great extent the foodservice chain procurement and R&D being handled by our firm concentrates on menu application goals and measures discriminate small differences in taste and appearance perceptions. On the pragmatic side, however, every chain wants a unique product or a duplication of what the segment leader is currently featuring. More often than not, that’s what we deliver.
When working for a Fortune 500 QSR chain years ago, my team developed 2 unique products that would go on to industry greatness, when introduced by other foodservice chains.
The first product was the battered-seasoned curly fry used Arby’s and other chains before becoming a giant retail seller. Chef Barry Eisenberg and I teamed with Tator Boy (later purchased by Lamb-Weston), to refine the batter adhesion and production process over a 6-month period in Al Taubmans' high-rise test kitchen in Dearborn, MI.
The second product was developed just a few years earlier. The light bulb went off for this product while touring the old Wilson Foods meat plant in Kansas City. I noticed a long-metal tube about 10 feet long and 5 inches in diameter, hidden away in a remote section of the plant. I asked, “can a pork belly be turned and stuffed into the tube”, and the rest is history! That was the birth of round bacon used nationally by McDonald’s and now manufactured by several leading pork suppliers.
The fact that both items were rejected by the chain they were developed for is meant to drive home the point that you must know your audience or risk taking a step in the wrong direction. By the way, this famous drive-in chain rejected these unique products because that did not confirm to foodservice standards. As Dale M. , the board chairman said; “the customer will simply not understand round bacon or non-straight french fries.”
Whether you are novice or expert at sourcing and development, “The proof of the puddin’ is in the eating”. Dare to be different and stay creative!
The determination of shape, cut, grade, score, color, aroma, texture and other attributes relating to your final product, should be made in terms of the customer’s palate, and the palatability of the product to achieve the goals of the organization. Testing product through focus groups and sensory evaluation panels can be money in the bank!
To Higher Profits!
Fred Favole is Founder & President of Strategic Purchasing Services (SPS), a firm specializing in purchasing and R&D outsourcing for emerging chains and group organizations. Contact: P. 912.634.0030 View his bio: www.linkedin.com/in/strategicpurchasing