About Us

Karen Malody, FCSI, MSW

Karen founded Culinary Options consultancy in 1997 after departing Starbucks where she had been Food, Beverage and Menu Development Director. Prior to that time, she had been vice-president of Food, Beverage and Product Development for Larry’s Markets, an upscale multi-unit supermarket in Seattle, WA. For six years prior to that Karen was Senior Director of concept and menu development for Satisfaction Guaranteed Eateries, a multiunit restaurant group in Seattle, WA. Her efforts led to the development of concepts and menus for four new locations as well as the reengineering of three legacy operations.

Karen’s earliest foray into the foodservice world, after shifting her career from psychiatric social work to food, was establishing one of the first cooking schools in Seattle, which later also provided highly reputed catering services. During that time, she wrote a weekly food column for the Seattle Times and co-founded of the Northwest Culinary Alliance.

Karen’s consulting approach is based on this pyramid of fundamental principles:

  • Vision drives greatness
  • Authenticity is golden
  • Bold thinking creates big results
  • Menu Drives Everything!

In these sessions client goal clarity is illuminated. Synergy of purpose amongst all project stakeholders is attained. From that clarity and goal definition a fully articulated concept is created. The menu follows, as it is through the menu composition that a concept is given life. Karen’s passion for global flavors and intrinsically healthful cultural cuisines drives her product development. Food done right is her mantra.

Karen has received the Excellence in Management Advisory Services from the Foodservice Consultants Society International, Top Achiever Consultant of the year from Foodservice Equipment & Supplies and the Industry Service Award from Restaurant Equipment Reports. She has been a featured speaker at multiple foodservice industry conferences, chaired FCSI’s Council for Professional Standards for six years and contributes articles frequently to various foodservice publications.

Consultant of the Year
Food Equipment Reports

Top Achiever Consultant of the Year
Food Equipment & Supplies

Best Article by a Consultant (Twice)
Food Consultants Society International

Award for Management Advisory Excellence (Project of the Year)
Food Consultants Society International

Designated National Food Treasure
Food Writers of America

Professional Bio

Overview

Forty-five years of foodservice experience, with particular focus on Concept, Menu and Recipe Development and Ideation leadership.

VENUES

  • Commercial restaurants
  • Business and Industry (B&I)
  • College & University
  • Food Retail
  • Food manufacturing
  • Premium supermarket foodservice

Career Trajectory

Culinary Options, LLC,
Founder/Principal

A food and beverage consultancy founded in 1997 and whose purpose is to provide professional advice for contemporary commercial and noncommercial operations from concept ideation through product, concept and menu development.

Starbucks

Director, Food & Beverage and Menu

  • Developed long-term budget for $400 million division
  • Established the first Food & Beverage Analysis and Monthly Report Program
  • Researched and conceptualized a new, full-service, sit-down food concept

  • Created and implemented a Regional Food Manager Program to educate regional employees on Food and Beverage management protocols, monitor quality standards and negotiate better vendor contracts

  • Exceeded $80 million dollar food sales goal by 7%
  • Reduced food costs by 3% through menu strategy shifts and renegotiated contracts

  • Opened 25 new geographically-diverse pastry markets in one year, on time, on budget

  • Created strategy to guide prototype development and to establish Gold Standard attributes for all products in preparation for implementation

  • Brought 47 products to Gold Standard level within first 8 months
  • Established a Core Menu strategy; articulated and gate-kept standards for all menu items

  • Led team in developing the Frappuccino™
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Adobe

Collaborated with Russ Benson, DayOne Hospitality, as part of an RFP process, to analyze the current operations at headquarters in Silicon Valley and San Francisco from a menu, concept and quality standpoint that would further inform the content of the RFP. The same consultant and I were then hired to conduct a deep dive into technological solutions for their current operations as well as that of a soon-to-be large

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PCC Community Markets

This multi-unit iconic market in Seattle, WA brought Culinary Options in to evaluate the current commissary capacity with a goal of moving the culinary functions to a new centralized location. A thorough analysis of current production volumes of all products sold in the markets was done to determine which menu items in their various foodservice departments were candidates for centralized production. In so doing, many operational efficiencies were identified and put into action prior to the new commissary being built.

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Pacific Rim Natural Foods

Sales and Marketing Director

  • Directed sales and marketing for the largest natural food wholesaler in the
  • Northwest with annual sales of $8 million per year, which included managing a sales staff of 8 people and overseeing success strategies for over 200 retail customers.
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Novartis

As a result of totally redesigning the entire campus and hiring respected architects from other countries to design spectacular buildings, the executive leaders wanted to do something dramatically different with foodservice on this corporate campus. They wanted a restaurant expert on the foodservice planning team in addition to those who historically had worked only with corporate dining. I was hired (referred by Coburn & Guyette Kitchen Designers & Foodservice Consultants in Boston) to assist in the development of three fully articulated restaurant concepts for each of the new buildings: concept, menu, equipment requirements, operational flow and design personality for each. Detailed documents were created which then allowed the architects and kitchen designers to have a road map. I then assisted in the RFP process for finding outside restaurateurs to operate the restaurants, interviewing them and participating in the ultimate operator choices.

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HCSC

Director, Food & Beverage and Menu

  • Developed long-term budget for $400 million division
  • Established the first Food & Beverage Analysis and Monthly Report Program
  • Researched and conceptualized a new, full-service, sit-down food concept

  • Created and implemented a Regional Food Manager Program to educate regional employees on Food and Beverage management protocols, monitor quality standards and negotiate better vendor contracts

  • Exceeded $80 million dollar food sales goal by 7%
  • Reduced food costs by 3% through menu strategy shifts and renegotiated contracts

  • Opened 25 new geographically-diverse pastry markets in one year, on time, on budget

  • Created strategy to guide prototype development and to establish Gold Standard attributes for all products in preparation for implementation

  • Brought 47 products to Gold Standard level within first 8 months
  • Established a Core Menu strategy; articulated and gate-kept standards for all menu items

  • Led team in developing the Frappuccino™
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Twenty Corners Brewing Company

We worked with owner Andrew Davis to develop a food concept and menu for his top-notch brewery. The menu was designed to optimize the beautiful Woodstone hearth-fired oven and be brew friendly. We crafted a Flat & Folds menu that still features pizzas and folded hot sandwiches, the bread of which is made from the pizza dough. Twenty Corners has since expanded their menu to include brunch while still featuring the hearthstone baked soft pretzels made fresh daily.

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S'Wiched

We developed a full sandwich, salad, and soup menu, including all recipes, for this popular Fast Casual restaurant located in Maple Valley, WA. owned by bothers Josh and Tyler Nelson. They were well-grounded in the foodservice business having grown up in a family who operates multiple Taco Time locations in Washington. Culinary Options was involved in every step of the S’Wiched evolution, from conceptualization to implementation.

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Johns Hopkins Medicine

Culinary Options worked with a foodservice consultant team to assist the JHH foodservice thought leaders in assessing their vision for retail concepts and programs in their hospitals. This included evaluation of trends, benchmarking, competitive analysis and recommendation for probable inclusions and additions to the current plan. A solid business case for each of the finalized concepts was then built, reflecting essential viability and recommendations for optimal financial success.

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Tenfold Senior Living

A Visioning session was conducted with the foodservice stakeholders in the Tenfold organization to attain clarity and alignment as to the role and purpose of foodservice within their living centers. A primary task was development, in collaboration with the executive team and chefs, a protocol for menu content, presentation, and rotation for their growing number of premiere senior living facilities in central California. Manuals were created outlining Standard Operating Procedures for both front of house and back of house in preparation for their intended growth in the next ten years.

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Lombardi's

Lombardi’s is a valued legacy brand in the Pacific Northwest that features classic & contemporary Italian cuisine from all around Italy, along with award winning Washington & Italian wines. An initial project with them involved documenting, formatting, costing, and assembling all recipes in their system to assure financial accountability. Development of new recipes that aligned with their vision and brand was included. Some years later, Culinary Options was hired again to revisit their brand identity and position in the growing competitive market. Sessions were held with the leadership and foodservice team to evaluate the menu content and structure.

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FareStart

FareStart, located in Seattle, WA, has been helping people transform their lives through food for nearly 30 years — one person, one job and one community at a time. They were given the opportunity to develop and then manage four new Fast Casual foodservice location in one of the new Amazon properties in the South Lake Union area of the city. Culinary Options was brought in to assist in development of each concept. This work was then followed by development of all the recipes, including costing for each concept and creation of the recipe manuals for each location. Several tastings with key stakeholders were held. Throughout the project we collaborated with Wayne Johnson, executive chef, to assure directional and flavor profile alignment.

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Black Walnut Inn & Vineyard

In preparation for a construction of a new building and kitchen at this elegant Inn, Culinary Options was hired to assist in the development of the vision, spatial planning and equipment recommendations for this facility.

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Sentry Insurance

Sentry headquarters in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, was in the midst of a total cafeteria remodel. They did not want to rely on their foodservice operator to determine their future for them, so I was hired to frame the conceptual approach to the food in the cafeteria, develop prototype menus for each station, help select merchandising and tabletop decor that was congruent with the concept and liaise with the existing operator to assure that the vision held by the thought leaders was executed according to the master plan.

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Firo Fire Kissed Pizza

We developed a conceptual framework, including naming, with founder Matt Jones, for this Neapolitan-style pizzeria. Firo Fire Kissed Pizza has 5 locations located in Lawton & Stillwater, OK; McKinney & Georgetown, TX; and Wichita Falls, KS. The goal was to create a viable, properly crafted pizza program, with full documentation of recipes, to form a firm foundation for later franchising. As the Firo website says, “on his path to build out the necessary ingredients for his budding concept to function, such as recipes and procedures, he hired Karen Malody — a two-time consultant of the year for the National Restaurant Association –to help establish the foundation of Firo Fire Kissed Pizza. Together the two trained a staff of “Firo-istas” in the proper portions and procedures for making authentic, Italian artisan pizzas, salads, and gelato, while also maintaining a consistently warm and authentic atmosphere and experience for all our guests.”

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Architect of the Capitol

Vice-President, Food Services Division(including Central Kitchen andProduct Development)

  • Recruited to direct concept, product and business strategies for Cafe, Special Food Court Kiosk programs, Catering, Meals-to-Go, Bakery, Deli and Prepared Food departments in 7 upscale supermarkets
  • Managed budget for the $25 million division
  • Responsible for directing development and business decisions for Private Kitchen commissary
  • Re-designed all department menus and implemented sales tracking systems that led to savings in lost fresh foods of 20%
  • Doubled catering sales within 1 year
  • Increased sales in Food Service division sales by 25%
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Restaurant Services, Inc.

Culinary Options worked with owner Joe Fugere to study classic Neapolitan pizza methodology and requirements for VPN certification. We also trained with Joe at the Accademia della Pizza Napoletana in Los Angeles (CA). We then developed the original Tutta Bella menu, including full development of all menu items as well as formatting and costing. All of which was compiled into Production and Presentation manuals. Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria became the first Pacific Northwest pizzeria to be accredited by The Associazione Verace Pizza Napolitana. Tutta Bella went on to become one of Nation’s Restaurant News Hot New Concepts and currently operates multiple Seattle area locations.

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Amazon

When Amazon executive leaders realized the mammoth task that lied ahead for them to feed nearly 50,000 employees, they realized that a team of consultants was required to help them develop a master plan for foodservice. They wanted to digress from the classic corporate campus “cafeteria thinking” and create discreet, fully articulated Fast Casual concepts within the secure spaces of their three newest 37-story buildings, as well as reinvent foodservice in three existing buildings. My role was to research the Fast Casual category and present fully articulated concepts from which they could choose. I presented 47 Fast Casual Concepts, with narratives, pictures, operational descriptions and prototype menus for each. From these 47, they have so far selected 27 which are being built.

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Gregorakis, Inc.

Owner and President

Established one of the first cooking schools in Seattle, WA, and became the first Pacific Northwest food expert to be included in a national food magazine – Bon Appetit.

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Seattle Yacht Club

Culinary Options assisted the executive leadership of this premiere Seattle Yacht Club in assessing the operational and financial viability of their three internal foodservice concepts, culminating with a presentation to the Board. This assessment also included a full central kitchen evaluation: equipment, functionality, flow on the line, and potential renovation.

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Larry's Markets

Vice-President, Food Services Division (including Central Kitchen and Product Development)

  • Recruited to direct concept, product and business strategies for Cafe, Special Food Court Kiosk programs, Catering, Meals-to-Go, Bakery, Deli and Prepared Food departments in 7 upscale supermarkets
  • Managed budget for the $25 million division
  • Responsible for directing development and business decisions for Private Kitchen commissary
  • Re-designed all department menus and implemented sales tracking systems that led to savings in lost fresh foods of 20%
  • Doubled catering sales within 1 year
  • Increased sales in Food Service division sales by 25%
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Satisfaction Guaranteed Eateries

Senior Director, Menu & Product Development

  • Responsible for development and implementation of core concepts and menu items for seven full-service, upscale restaurants with annual sales of $15 million in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Created first kitchen procedure manuals and training materials
  • Implemented recipe documentation and costing system
  • Authored all menus
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Rosevilla

This beautiful, forward-thinking retirement community in Portland, OR, hired Culinary Options to assist in re-design their foodservice program by providing a deep financial analysis of the operation and the operational efficiencies. All recipes were formatted into a consistent presentational format and costed.

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