Video: Our Exclusive Visit To Jack In The Box's Test Kitchen
Have you ever wondered exactly whose job it is to come up with he next jalapeño poppers or cinnamon-dusted, knock-off cronuts? Well, Jack himself invited LAist to San Diego as the first media ever allowed into the official Jack In The Box headquarters and test kitchen in to find out just that.
Everything starts out in a process called "Ideation." Kitchen staff are there both to test out whatever new ideas pop into their heads as well as to re-test old items to make sure they are up to par. So there are always all sorts of experiments going on in the test kitchen. When we visited, a woman at one station was measuring a new sauce to make sure it was just thick enough. Another woman was testing to see how many burgers it took to empty a full bottle of sauce. Each new burger that the Jack’s team even thinks about putting into the market takes at least 8 months—just to test the patty. And those Jack in the Box curly fries full of seemingly random tight and loose curlicues? There’s an organized method to the madness. The perfect bag of curly fries has a combination of four types of curly fries in the bag. At the test kitchen, there was a staffer whose job it was to test the curliness of the fries.
During my visit along with videographer Sami Abdou, I was brought to a back room with a two-way mirror while a focus group was in session. As the focus group tasted a new salted caramel shake, I was able to ask questions through the intercom system. The focus group was puzzled by my voice running through the loudspeaker since they couldn't see me. I was able to ask them questions about the shake and whether they truly thought it was delicious—or if they were just there for the free food.
Focus groups at Jack's start with their own employees. If the potential new item does well, they'll do more testing. If it passes the focus group, standalone Jack in the Boxes will test out a specialty item before it debuts nationwide. The food was actually really good. That must be what happens when you get to play Food God for a day and literally create almost anything you want from scratch in an innovation kitchen with chefs at your disposal.
At the end of my visit, I was given the opportunity to invent my own burger Top Chef-style. The refrigerators and shelves of the kitchen had an endless supply of ingredients. So if you see a kimchi burger with maple bacon and three types of cheese on the menu next year, you know who to thank.