Orlando: Where restaurants roll out new ideas

When the restaurant industry needs guinea pigs, it often finds them in Central Florida.

Orlando-area residents have recently sampled new Chick-fil-A salads, a healthy Cracker Barrel menu and Red Lobster’s pay-at-the-counter option before most other American diners.

New products or menus often are tried out in Orlando because it’s a big city filled with chains, a diverse population and millions of annual visitors. It is also home to several national and regional restaurant companies, which like to test close to corporate headquarters.

“Orlando gives you the geographic diversity; people from all over the country go here,” said H.G. Parsa, a former University of Central Florida restaurant professor now on the faculty of the University of Denver’s business school. “That’s the beauty of it.”

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