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Joan M. Lang

Articles by
Joan M. Lang

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What Taco Bell learned from the biggest new product launch of the year

What’s it like to be involved in the biggest new product introduction of the year, the menu item that helped bring your company into the next era? “The journey has been unbelievable, and consumer excitement about it has been absolutely overwhelming,” says Stephanie Perdue, director of brand marketing for Taco Bell Corp., who oversaw the company’s new Doritos Locos Taco. “This has been a real passion project for everyone.”

Kick the salt, but keep the flavor

Boston Market’s late-August announcement that it would cut sodium levels an average of 20 percent throughout its menu—a decision symbolized by the chain...

As a classically trained chef who came up through the ranks of fine dining (Bouley, Charlie Trotter’s, Tru), Bill Kim knows about building flavor and...

Fresh, accessible takes on Asian ingredients and cooking techniques. Inviting, contemporary décor. Friendly, English-speaking service. Westernized trappings like wine and beer, specialty cocktails and desserts that aren’t made of red beans.

Over the course of the past two years, management has strengthened the culture; improved the business model and unit economics; ramped up marketing; and introduced a remodel that has spurred 28 percent sales increases.

The economy over the last few years has provided the ultimate incentive for operators that have had the foresight and the resources to put a new generation of prototypes in the pipeline.

You can’t learn everything in culinary school. Or business school. Some lessons you’ve just got to learn on the job. With that in mind we set out to gather a little collected wisdom from the industry on how to do some of the more obscure tasks an operator might face. Challenges abound out there. Hopefully this will help get you through a few of them.

In buying and reinvigorating four classic older franchises, Andy Unanue has not only rescued the brands from obscurity but also created a way for entrepreneurs to get in on the ground floor.

Josh Lebowitz managed and then purchased the two-unit Brother Jimmy’s in 2000. He retooled the concept as the spot for Southern food and hospitality in New York City. The motto: Put Some South in Your Mouth—is the “’cue” that you can get St. Louis-style ribs, Carolina pork and Texas brisket.

Starting in 1984 with a takeout-only sandwich shop specializing in fresh-roasted turkey sandwiches, Michael Baker has expanded his sphere through the years into a full-service café/retail store and an extensive catering business generating more than $12 million in annual sales.

Named president and COO in 2008 of the submarine sandwich company her father, Bill Specht, co-founded in 1972, Christine Specht has successfully walked the fine line between preserving the heritage of the brand and updating it for growth. Though she never planned to go into the family business, she came to Cousins in 2001 to run the human resources department and loved it.

Frank Scibelli has parlayed his Springfield, Massachusetts, Italian upbringing into a mini-empire in the temperamental Charlotte, North Carolina, market by listening to his gut and his customers.

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