Culinary Systems Inc is a product development and consulting group for restaurant and retail. Following their success in AI’s Global Excellence Awards 2019, we profiled the firm and spoke to Culinary Systems Inc’s President, Tony Lagana who provided us with a detailed insight into the services they provide.
Established in 1997, Culinary Systems Inc has helped clients to develop and introduce new food products in restaurants, retail grocery, and food manufacturing. Culinary Systems Inc also owns ‘Menu Innovator’ – a patented menu analysis system based on industryleading chefs and restaurants that predicts probability and time frame of new menu items and ingredients for the national stage.
Tony Lagana, founder of Culinary Systems Inc and creator of Menu Innovator, is a 43-year veteran of the food industry. Since the inception of Culinary Systems, he has generated over 2 billion dollars in sales, with a client list that reads like the “who’s who” of Fortune 500 companies. Recognized by peers at the “New Product Guru”, Tony has placed products in every major restaurant chain and grocer in the United States.
• Quaker Oats
• Morning Star
• Ken’s Dressings
• Mrs. Smith’s
• Golden Corral
• Red Lobster
• TGI Fridays
• UNO Pizzeria
Tony began his career as a chef in critically acclaimed fine dining restaurants before accepting a position as a culinary instructor at Académie de Cuisine. His work in new product development for Kraft Foods – generating products in every food category in retail grocery – eventually led him to ‘Red Lobster’. Here, Tony excelled as the Director of Culinary for the 700-unit restaurant chain. These experiences led Tony to found Culinary Systems in 1997, pursuing his passion for product development and consulting.
While Culinary Systems works on a national level, Tony has always recognized the needs of his local community. While devoting his work full-time to Culinary Systems, Tony served as a member of the Orange County School Board’s President’s Council on Healthy Food, working to educate local students on nutrition and healthy eating. He has also prepared meals at the Give Kids the World Village, a nonprofit resort in Kissimmee, Florida for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. Aside from a passion for his community, Tony works to pour into the culinary community through education as an adjunct member at Penn State University’s School of Hospitality, as a consultant for Thailand Restaurant News, and speaking nationally for IFT and Flavor & The Menu.
When asked about the award-winning services the firm provides, Tony reveals how the team at Culinary Systems Inc is able to successfully deliver and achieve excellence in all that they do. “Here at Culinary Systems Inc, we are able to see through the eyes of the consumer, understanding their needs and desires – even when they are unable to articulate those needs. We look at demographic and attitudinal data from all sectors of foodservice and retail, while combining both culinary flair and expertise to produce products which have a mass appeal. As a whole, we are dedicated to innovative product development and have experience in every type of cuisine from fine dining to a sandwich shop. Our experience on the production plant floor is unsurpassable.”
One of Tony’s latest adventures, previously mentioned, is Menu Innovator, which, for the last fifteen years has accurately predicted many foods that have entered the mainstream market – saving both time and money in development cost.
Bringing the interview to a close, Tony reflects on the current state of the industry, noting the challenges that the culinary business currently faces and others that will occur in the near future. “The food industry is in a constant state of flux, changing with the seasons and the economic cycles. Food has a strong emotional attachment to people which changes when we go through different stages of life. The biggest challenge is to anticipate those changes and develop as well as implement strategies to address the needs of the individual consumer.”
Looking ahead to what the future holds, Tony signs off by revealing the exciting plans which lie in the pipeline for the firm, especially following their recent success in Acquisition Intl.’s Global Excellence Awards 2019 where they were righteously awarded the accolade Most Influential Restaurant Product Development Expert 2019 – USA.
“Moving forward, we are launching a monthly subscription service of ‘Menu Innovator’. This is a product that we used to sell for 50,000 dollars, will now be available for less than a daily cup of coffee. Menu Innovator will allow either the chef or product development person to unlock the keys to food innovation. To achieve this, we use algorithms to select and analyze the most influential restaurants and chefs in the country, which will enable us to determine what we will be eating in the future.”