How long does it take to get a new item on the menu at Donatos?

ThisWeek staffers got an inside peek at the company's test kitchen at 935 Taylor Station Road, Columbus.

Our stop to Donatos is part of our monthlong focus in October for National Pizza Month. Previously, we interviewed local chefs and talked about where you can get the best pizza in central Ohio.  

Cynthia Ottavio, Donatos director of menu innovation, and Lenae Hott, senior coordinator of menu innovation, showed us around their test kitchen and let me help make a few pizzas.

On average, it takes at least six months to get a new item on the Donatos menu, Hott said.

"In the industry, to be able to go from concept to production in six months is really tremendously fast," Ottavio said. 

In addition to creating a recipe for the new item, Ottavio and Hott need to determine if the dish is cost effective and make sure every store can replicate the item. The dish also has to be vetted through a sensory panel through which residents stop in the headquarters and give feedback about a menu item.

Not every idea ends up on the menu, Ottavio and Hott said. Taco pizza made sense on paper, but having fresh lettuce on top of a pizza wouldn't work in actuality because most customers carry out their pizza or deliver it to their home, Ottavio said.

"Putting lettuce on the pizza, in a box, in the delivery bag, and you open the door of your home, and you put it on the kitchen table, it's like 'What happened to the lettuce?' "

The two dishes that tested well and recently made the menu are the calzone and the salty-caramel apple pie, Hott said.

Abby Armbruster is the ThisWeek Community News social-media strategist.