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National Restaurants Continue to Develop Concepts, Menus in Colorado

Food & Drink Resources (FDR) Innovation Center capitalizes on popular restaurant brands and franchises


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Colorado offers a unique crossroads for multi-location restaurants looking to develop concepts and menus. Denver and other Colorado cities are metropolitan enough to present a mix of perspectives and preferences, but the population also has a hometown feel that grounds restaurants in culinary reality. This is important when it comes to developing a menu. Restaurants want new and fresh tastes, but they don’t want menu items that are too edgy for mainstream palates.

Perhaps that’s why dozens of national restaurant chains such as SmashBurger, Noodles & Company and Chipotle, to name a few, got their start in Colorado. That’s also why many restaurants, those headquartered here and elsewhere, conduct consumer research with independent agencies to gather qualitative and quantitative insights.

Richard Keys and Scott Randolph both saw the opportunity for a menu development agency in Denver in 2009 when they relocated from Texas and crafted plans to create a brick and mortar test kitchen and consumer research facility that surpassed the quality and cleanliness they saw at facilities they worked in across the United States.

Theirs would be a technologically advanced facility offering a place for restaurateurs and chefs to be inspired and innovate, and a place for consumers to share their opinions and ideas on how they eat. The facility is Food & Drink Resources’ (FDR) Innovation Center, located at 6555 South Kenton St. in Centennial. It opened in 2014 and continues to serve restaurants based locally, nationally and outside the US.

“Any one of the chefs at FDR can share stories of working in test kitchens where all you have to work with is a hot plate and a garbage can,” says co-founder Richard Keys. “Our first goal was to create an environment that fostered quality and creativity in a place you’d want to visit over and over again.”

Food & Drink Resources, FDR for short, was one of the first consumer research facilities with a commercial-grade kitchen and bar in the area.  As the industry continues to grow, other facilities like it are popping up along the Front Range. Nearly everyone at FDR has culinary training along with additional industry experience in operations manufacturing, marketing, sales, brandin, and supply chain management, among other things.

“These skill sets are beneficial to chain restaurants that continue to downsize. You’d be hard pressed to find a chain restaurant with an executive chef on staff, let alone anyone with culinary training. It is typically sales and marketing executives that drive menu development,” said Keys.

FDR’s team of 12 provides a number of services to assist a restaurant with menu development starting with ideation, recipe development and consumer testing and then finishing with commercialization and marketing.

“It’s our goal to be a full-service agency for restaurants,” said Keys. “The fact that we’re local is icing on the cake.”

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