Think tanks aren’t just for Capitol Hill intellectuals—they can also prove a useful model for quick-service restaurants. That’s how Wayback Burgers executives describe the brand’s newly opened test kitchen, located in Cheshire, Connecticut.
Before the test kitchen, the burger chain’s corporate team was forced to develop and test new products in franchisees’ kitchens, a process that proved ineffective, says Richard Tarascio, vice president of procurement for Wayback Burgers. The new facility enables Tarascio and his team to replicate restaurant systems to test the viability of new products as well as serving as a space for experimentation.
“The biggest draw of a test kitchen is for our research and development,” he says. “We’re constantly looking for that big next thing with our Burger of the Month and Milkshake of the Month.”
Those monthly specials account for about 10 percent of sales, Tarascio adds. When the new space first opened in August, the first order of business was sampling the Burger of the Month and Milkshake of the Month for the next 12-plus months. However, it’s more than just flavor development—the R&D team can also invite food vendors to identify how their products could benefit upcoming LTOs.
“For example, we did a Firecracker Burger for July, which had French’s onions, bacon from Hormel, and chipotle mayo to make it a spicy offering,” Tarascio says. “We have another one coming up next month that we call the Frank-n-Burger for October to coincide with the holiday. It has a whole hot dog on top of a burger.”
Wayback Burgers’ equipment vendors have also found a new home in the test kitchen as it offers prime space to test new fryers, grills, and more, Tarascio says.
“The biggest goal is to cut our costs in whatever way possible. We’ll go in for a piece of equipment that costs more so long as it cuts costs in the end through labor or something,” he says. “We’re able to communicate regularly to give our suppliers feedback, as well as our franchisees.”
By Tamara Omazic