Menu Innovations | October 2013 | By Chuck Green

Something’s Cooking at Arby’s

Initiative generates new menu ideas with help from employees.

Arby's leverages employees suggestions for new menu development.
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Too many cooks in the kitchen? Not at Arby’s, where a new product-development program means the more ideas, the tastier.

The product-idea program, dubbed “Hey Chef Neville!,” was developed as a way for restaurant teams and corporate employees to submit new menu ideas to Arby’s culinary team, helmed by corporate executive chef Neville Craw.

Meant to foster a creative and collaborative environment, the initiative encourages employees to play an active role in the company, says Len Van Popering, senior vice president of product development and innovation at Arby’s.

All product ideas receive equal consideration, and employees who submit ideas are eligible to receive up to $1,500 as a cash prize. Since its inception in 2012, the program has grown from around 100 submissions to more than 1,200 so far this year. This summer’s House Made Chips LTO was one of the first products to hit stores through the “Hey Chef Neville!” initiative.

The “Hey Chef Neville!” program, Van Popering adds, is just one component of a much broader and more open innovation model Arby’s is pursuing. “You never know where the next great idea will come from,” Van Popering says.

Consulting employees and franchisees is a smart way to solicit menu-development ideas, Craw says. It invites input from employees on the front lines, he says, who can reflect customer preferences and help Arby’s develop a menu that satisfies those choices.