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NRN selects 1999 MenuMasters Award winners

Nation's Restaurant News presents the seventh annual MenuMasters Awards, a program honoring outstanding research and development in the restaurant industry. MenuMasters, sponsored by Ventura Foods LLC, showcases the industry's expertise in adding excitement to the dining experience through trendsetting R & D programs and menu promotions.

The criteria for selecting the MenuMasters include the effectiveness of product introductions that set new standards in innovation and the use of well-prepared, quality ingredients. The winners fill market needs, such as this year's timely concentration on low-carbohydrate dishes.

The 1999 MenuMasters Awards are presented in seven categories as follows:

Best Healthy Choice Menu Selection:

Jamba Juice -Steve Marco, Manager, Product Development.
Health-conscious Jamba Juice strengthened its standing as a nutritional meal-replacement leader by introducing Jambola Breads, its first non-juice product line. Served warm and toasted, Jambola Breads perfectly complement the chain's renowned smoothies. And like those signature juice drinks, Jambolas are scoring points with consumers looking for a meal alternative rich in vitamins and other nourishing supplements.

Best Single Product Rollout:

Einstein/Noah Bagel Corp. - Ron Savelli, Vice President of Research and Development.
In a break from its standard fare, Einstein/Noah launched the Roasted Portobello and Pepper Baguette Sandwich as the flagship product in a dramatic expansion of its luncheon menu. With a marinated portobello mushroom cap, the sandwich features roasted red peppers, fresh greens and Asiago cheese slathered on a sourdough baguette -- a tasty treat that has infused new life into the chain's mid-day offerings.

Best Menu Revamp:

Stephen Anderson - Tom Vogel, Vice President of Food and Beverage.
This revamped menu partners enticing new dishes with revitalized old favorites. New appetizers like Lobster Fondue and Parrot Bay Lobster Shrimp add punch to the menu. Lobster and Shrimp Pasta and Bayou Gumbo enliven the main course, while a 30-recipe, fresh fish-of-the-day program increases menu variety. Introduced last November, the updated menu has increased profitability and positioned this Darden Restaurants concept toward a younger consumer.

Best Menu/Line Extension:

Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits - Billy Jacob, Executive Chef.
Louisiana Legends is a new, long-term menu category that solidifies Popeyes' reputation as a unique, quick serve destination for flavor seekers. Borrowing from the region's famed "one-pot-cooking" technique, Louisiana Legends are built around core offerings like jambalayas, etouffees and stews, gumbos and chilies. Watch for this product line to grow over the next few years as Popeyes adds at least 20 new items to the category.

Best Limited-Time Offer:

Wolfgang Puck Café - Jennifer Jasinski, Corporate Chef.
Light-hearted and innovative, the Wolfgang Puck Café's '98 Summer Menu was in sync with the season and a big hit with customers. Refreshing entrees included Wolf's Shrimp Gazpacho and Coriander Charred Tuna Nicoise. "Summer in a Glass" fruit drinks like Lemonade Mint Cooler and Pineapple Pipeline provided heat relief, while desserts like Homemade Watermelon and Pineapple Granita capped a perfect summer experience at this Wolfgang Puck Food Company eatery.

Best Menu Promotion:

Taco Bell - Mary Wagner, Chief Technology Officer.
With strong promotion, Gorditas, grilled Mexican flat bread tacos, roared onto the national scene last year and had a major impact on Taco Bell's improved 1999 earnings. This south-of-the-border fare introduced fast food patrons to exotic flavors like smoked chipotle peppers and cilantro-corn salsa -- new and innovative ingredients reflecting cutting-edge menu development for this quick serve chain.

Hall of Fame:

Colonel Harland Sanders -David Brewer, Vice President of KFC Corp.
A leader of the post-World War II fast food explosion and a pioneer in product and menu development, the late Colonel Harland Sanders was affectionately known as "America's Chicken King." He not only revolutionized the method of cooking southern fried chicken in the fast food arena, but also developed a "secret recipe" of 11 herbs and spices that remains unmatched to this day.


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