Espresso With That?GAMBIER, Ohio (October 28, 2008)
The mixed marriage of McDonald's salads and Newman's Own dressings was arranged during negotiations between Kenyon alumni Paul Newman '49 and Wendy Cook '88, P '11.
Cook, who helps decide the direction of the McDonald's restaurants menu, will provide an inside-out look at the fast-food chain at 11:10 a.m. on Thursday, November 6. The latest in the Burton D. Morgan Foundation Lectureship Series is called "Innovation: Passion, Insights, and Lifelong Learning—Evolving the McDonald's Menu" and takes place at the Beulah Kahler Theater in the Kenyon Athletic Center.
Cook is the vice president of U.S. menu innovation for McDonald's. "I will provide an insider's view of how the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, even in a huge corporation like McDonald's," she said. With Cook's help, the restaurant chain developed a new-product process with a success rate of about 90 percent, boosting sales by about 40 percent since 2002, she said. The new-product success rate in the packaged-goods industry is about 10 percent.
After earning a master's degree in business administration at Northwestern University, Cook embarked on a career in brand management at the Drackett Co., Kraft Foods, and NutraSweet before joining McDonald's in 1993. She directs the team responsible for the development of new items for the McDonald's menu as well as menu improvements. She also leads a future-menu team charged with identifying the McDonald's menu for the next decade.
Cook negotiated the partnership with Newman and Newman's Own for the dressing used on McDonald's salads, starting in 2003. Under her direction, McDonald's has introduced McCafe espresso coffees, premium salads, and several new chicken items, including white-meat McNuggets, Southern Style Chicken Selects, and premium chicken sandwiches. In a published interview, she said, "Chicken is the fastest growing category in terms of how people eat, and it's also the largest."
Cook lives in Hinsdale, Illinois, with her husband, Stan, and three children, including Sarah, 19, a Kenyon sophomore.
The lecture is made possible by a grant from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, a private foundation based in Hudson, Ohio, with a mission to support and foster free enterprise.