The new menu development was a collaborative process involving chefs across the company. Stewart provides an in-depth look at the process and the renewed culinary direction of CRAVE.
The menu development process started by identifying the direction globally and deciding what we wanted to keep—that being only 5 or 6 items from the existing menu, which provided us a huge opportunity. We didn’t want to recreate what CRAVE is and has been.
We reached out to all executive chefs across the company and gleaned from the dishes and picked their brains about what specials had worked and things they had tried in their operations to determine where and how they would come together. Everyone sent a plethora of ideas, and from there, we narrowed it to what we thought fit and felt what would be the most successful approach. Some of the key players through the process included Dave Miller from Cincinnati, and Joel from Omaha, as these operations more closely mirror what is happening in the MN stores. Austin and Coral Gable’s have somewhat different markets, and therefore will have a slightly different menu items
We began by laying out the framework of where we thought we would like things to go through a day of groupthink with Kam and Dave. From there, we got into the kitchen based on these conversations. We divided the team up into pairs- David and Joel, Gerard and Amber, and Chris Nelson and myself. Evan and Chris Oxley spent time working in a bigger picture consulting roll through the process. We presented our first dishes to Kam, Dave, and the operations team on Wednesday, prepared a second round on Thursday, and a final round on Friday. What was more striking about process was how well the team worked together. The process could easily go sideways when you get a bunch of chefs in the kitchen, but everyone was collaborating to make the best menu possible. By the end of the week we finished 98% of the recipes and had a specific direction set. We spent another week compiling recipes, creating techniques and processes and then identifying the dishes that would work well to special.
We ran ten dishes a week to test out the menu, rotating through different stores so Chris and myself could be on the ground for training, consistency, and ensuring dishes were on point. This was supplemented by weekly Executive Chef calls, where we identified sourcing and technique opportunity and discussed issues and areas we could improve. All in all, there were only two changes- adding a component to a dish and changing a technique.
We got feedback from regulars and guests. Were the dishes things the guest would come back for or would that need be filled by another restaurant? We were surprised by how well these dishes were received and how people were coming back for the specials after the specials had transitioned. It was an incredibly positive trial from the guest and staff perspective, and I’m eager to see the evolution. The menu was really a monumental effort in a short period of time. With ten specials a week in addition to the concurrent menu, it was a fantastic challenge for all chefs, and it was pulled off very well. I am confident we can execute the menu at high level when we roll it out.