Years ago, McDonald's relied on creative franchisees to concoct new items. Restaurant owners invented the Big Mac, the Egg McMuffin and other favorites. Now McDonald's uses a far more
sophisticated system that has increased the variety and ambition of the menu in a redesigned test kitchen.
Dan Coudreaut, a chef whose resume includes a stint at the Four Seasons hotel in Dallas, leads the effort. He winnows as many as 1,800 ideas a year down to a handful of items that must be tasty, inexpensive and easy to prepare. Known as "Chef Dan," the 41-year-old was lured to McDonald's by a headhunter. "You can impact 250 people a night at the hotel or 26 million [a day] at McDonald's," he says. "It's an easy decision."