ORLANDO, Fla. (FOX 35 ORLANDO) - Turns out that Orlando is the secret ingredient when it comes to test marketing restaurants.
Central Florida is now home to the headquarters of 16 global restaurant groups inlcuding Red Lobster, The Darden Group, Ruth's Chris, Talk of the Town, Bloomin' Brands and Food First Global.
Red Lobster's new headquarters are located on three floors of one of downtown Orlando's CNL towers.
Recipes are created in the test kitchen and are served up in a replica dining room to consumers before making it onto the menu and into restaurants.
Chef Dustin Hilinski, the executive director who leads the culinary staff for the entire restaurant chain, told Fox 35 that the tasting room "is where all the magic happens here in our test kitchen. We have the exact equipment and configuation any Red Lobster would have. So, all the recipes we test, we know can work in our restaurants."
A recent test Red Lobster recipe is 'Lobster and Waffles.' Lobster tail was fried with a cheddar bay waffle, creating a savory sweet taste. It was launched secretly, exploded across the media, and was a success, according to Chef Hilinski.
Orlando is a major player in testing out new dining trends because, as Chef Hilinski said, "Orlando has such a diverse demographic. We have people who are from Orlando, we have a lot of transplants from all over the country, and we have a lot of tourists that come see all the attractions. So, we get a great sampling of the population of the United States right here in Orlando. So, it gives us really good feeback on our food."
Kevin Murphy, a professor at Rosen's College of Hospitality, told Fox 35 that Orlando will continue to be key ingredient for test markets. "We're in the center of the state and we can grow all different ways. We're not trapped on the coast or in a place that is fully developed. So, that is the beauty of Orlando, it is going to grow," he said.
Watch the video to take a tour of their culinary center, tasting room and test kitchen and find out why Orlando is the new test kitchen to the world.