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:
All her development work begins with the initial Visioning. 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
Forty-five years of foodservice experience, with particular focus on Concept, Menu and Recipe Development and Ideation leadership.
Culinary Options, LLC,
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.
Director, Food & Beverage and Menu
Collaborated with Russ Benson, DayOne Hospitality Consulting, 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
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.
Sales and Marketing Director
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.
HCSC (Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company)
The foodservice program leaders requested a thorough analysis of their menus and sales reports in order to develop forward-thinking strategies based on my study and resulting recommendations. HCSC has multiple locations around the United States.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Was hired, along with Russ Benson, DayOne Hospitality and Laura Lentz, Culinary Advisors, to create an intensive workshop for the foodservice program managers at the AOC covering elements ranging from visioning, to concept development to operational feasibility and design. We were then asked to analyze all existing operations to both assist the AOC in developing an entirely new “way of being” (anti-cafeteria) as well as contribute to the Master Planning process and RFP process.
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.
Senior Director, Menu & Product Development
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.
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.
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.
A Visioning session with all departmental stakeholders was held to clarify and articulate the purpose of foodservice at Kohler, to identify complexities in executing the program across a multi-location campus, and to isolate opportunities for meeting employee needs in a more effective manner. In a collaborative effort with another consultant, we outlined three possible scenarios for moving forward, to include potential costs for each.
Vice-President, Food Services Division (including Central Kitchen and Product Development)
We worked closely with another consultant to conduct a foodservice visioning session and outline program possibilities for the post-Covid-19 future. Various recommendations were made as to operational opportunities and changes, all based on challenges that would be facing the operator when employees returned to work.
We worked with the Board of Directors and Management Company to identify the foodservice goals of this beautiful condominium and vacation rental facility near Vail, Colorado. The Charter offers various dining opportunities for owners and guests, to include a recently renovated wedding venue. The goal of the work was to establish the foodservice brand and its operating pillars as well as to establish standard operating procedures for the front of house.