Here’s an idea for a TV show that comes with logistical challenges baked in: Have amateur cooks compete to put family recipes on the menu at a giant restaurant chain. But TNT is giving it a try with On the Menu, a competition series starting this fall that will land new dishes in Chili’s, Outback Steakhouse and Denny’s, among others (one restaurant for each of the 10 episodes). Here’s the show’s pitch: Superchef Emeril Lagasse and host Ty Pennington will guide home cooks through the process, and sponsoring restaurant execs and head chefs will judge some of the dishes on sets that look like their chains.
“We’ll have to have some top-secret conversations that involve getting the food out to 1,500 restaurants among the very small circle of people who work on it,” said Kelli Valade, evp and COO of Chili’s. “With as many people as we feed, we’ve got to have a supply chain in the loop at some point. We were worried we’d have to have new ingredients.” Her episode airs in October, and the new dish goes on the menu the day after. But Valade said it’s worth the logistical wrangling: “Timing-wise, it’s fantastic for us. We’ve been doing so many things to update our look.”
“It’s very symbiotic,” said Dan Riess, Turner’s svp of marketing and promotions. Sponsors get category exclusivity in their episode, and restaurants promote the show. Bam!