PRODUCE R&D: Deconstructing The Menu Playbook

Adding new options to the menu, especially produce-centric items, is often considerably more complex than restaurant guests could possibly imagine. The process can be invigorating, distinctly creative and frustrating all at the same time.

Essential to a successful menu rollout is bringing key players to the table from the outset. When ideating and identifying menu items for research and development, it is imperative to include culinarians, marketers and other stakeholders: growers, distributors and commodity board representatives also bring invaluable insight to the discussion. This year’s FORUM is intended to stimulate thought and open dialogue among the foodservice industry’s leaders from all aspects of the supply chain.

7:00-8:00 am                     Registration
8:00-8:30 am                     Continental Breakfast
8:30-8:45 am                     Welcome Remarks/Introduction by Jim Prevor, Editor-in-Chief of PRODUCE BUSINESS

8:45-10:15 am                   Produce on the Menu Trends Report:
Cathy Holley,
publisher and editor-in-chief, Flavor and the Menu

10:15 -11:15 am                Discussion Panel 1 — The Big Idea — How To Get There

Menu ideas come from almost anywhere or anyone in a foodservice organization, but how does a restaurant operation take the idea and turn it into menu gold? How do all the stakeholders in produce contribute to the conceptualization of a new menu item? Procedures, methods and strategies can vary from company to company, but how can culinarians, marketers, growers, distributors, commodity boards, etc., all win a seat at the table? What is the list of no, no’s? What can operators do to ensure the smoothest rollout for this phase of the menu ideation?


  • Tim Beerup: Midwest Retail Manager, National Mango Board
  • Mary Humann, owner, The Humann Factor, LLC
  • Ian Ramirez, director of culinary innovation and operations, Creative Dining Services
  • Austin Simmons, corporate executive chef, Hubbell & Hudson Restaurant Group
  • Panel Moderator: Gerry Ludwig, corporate consulting chef, Gordon Food Service

11:15-11:30 am Conversation Break

11:30-12:30 pm Discussion Panel 2 — Narrowing The Field — Working Out The Kinks

What is the process that distills the original ideas into practical proof-of-concept, and what can be expected in the evolution of a new produce dish? What are possible variations in this phase of the rollout? What would be the possible disruptors and or challenges? Are focus groups essential to narrowing down the big ideas? What other research can be done at this juncture in the process? How is conflicting feedback dealt with? What parties and or tactics carry more weight in the process? What goals are mission critical and must be met? How do you ensure that the various stakeholders keep an open mind?


  • Dan Coudreaut, former executive chef and vice president of culinary for McDonalds and now founder, Coudreaut and Associates
  • Christopher Gaulke, food and beverage management professor, Cornell University – School of Hotel Management
  • Lisa McNeece, VP of foodservice and industrial sales, Grimmway Farms
  • Sharon Olson, executive director, Culinary Visions
  • Panel Moderator: Susan Renke, president and founder, Food Marketing Resources

12:30-1:15 pm      Chef Demo: Ron DeSantis, CMC, president, CulinaryNXT 

1:15-2:45 pm     Ideation Breakout Luncheon; Facilitator Tim York, president of Markon

Culinary Students will lead each table’s Ideation session

2:45 – 3:00 pm Presentation of PRODUCE BUSINESS magazine’s First In Fresh annual award

3:00 — 4:00 pm                Discussion Panel 3 — Signed, Sealed And Delivered — Ready For The Close-up?

Getting everyone on board with a new menu item is one thing, but getting the product to the restaurants reliably and in great condition is another. One of the keys is a thorough understanding of the supply chain in order to ensure the Big Idea can be executed down to each unit’s back-of-the-house. What hurdles need to be overcome in the final distribution of the produce to each unit? How can the various stakeholders contribute to the process during this final stage?


  • Ben Friedman, president, Riviera Produce
  • Greg Meeker, business development director, HZPC
  • Jeff Miller, founder, president, Cutting Edge Innovation LLC
  • Brian Walker, VP of Supply Chain Operations, Panera Bread
  • Panel Moderator: Amy Myrdal Miller, founder and president, Farmer’s Daughter Consulting, Inc.

4:00 — 4:30 pm   Wrap Up Conversation