GREGG RAPP, MENU ENGINEER SCHOLARSHIP @ WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY
Palm Springs, CA; November 24, 2020 – Pioneering Menu Engineer Gregg Rapp, who for 38 years dedicated himself to revolutionizing menu design and technology worldwide, died on November 11 in Palm Springs, CA. Rapp, 62, fought a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer for more than two years.
Rapp, who grew up in Oakwood near Dayton, Ohio, began his unique and groundbreaking business quite by accident. In hotel management school at Washington State University 40 years ago, he was tasked with turning around a bankrupt Mexican restaurant. When he revamped the menu for the restaurant and was able to make it a success again, that’s when the lightning bolt struck.
In an interview a few years ago, Rapp said at that point he decided menus were where his opportunity lay—in helping restaurants find what he calls “the money hidden in the menu.” He found that “the only menu companies were printing companies, and I thought ‘no one knows what’s going on here!’” By studying newspaper and magazine industries, the catalogue business and grocery stores, he was able to find out what catches a person’s eyes as they’re reading or passing through the aisles. “When I got out of school, I put together my business applying those tools to the restaurant business and have been doing it ever since.”
The list of Rapp’s clients who called on him to revamp their menus included restaurants and hotels worldwide, from small bowling alleys and diners to premium destinations - Walt Disney resorts, Spago, Caesar’s Palace, Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, Peninsula, Four Seasons and Marriott Hotels, Princess Cruises and Holland America. His thousands of clients also included numerous well-known chains, such as Subway, Olive Garden, Arby’s, Chili’s, Taco Bell, California Pizza Kitchen, TGI Friday’s, and Dave and Buster’s. A committed volunteer, Rapp also worked with the Los Angeles school district, searching for ways to make healthy lunch choices appeal to students’ appetites.
As a lauded maverick in his field of menu design and technology, Rapp was often featured nationally at conferences, symposiums, and seminars, speaking on menu psychology, sustainability practices in food service, hospitality, culinary arts, business innovation, and public health. He spoke regularly to graduate students at Cornell University, Duke University and Culinary Institute of America. The foremost expert in his industry, he appeared on ABC, CBS and NBC as well as in Time and INC. magazines, The New York Times, Business Insider, Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal.
Sherri Kimes, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, worked with Gregg for many years and said of her friend Rapp, “What's always struck me with Gregg was his generosity and genuine goodness. Whether it was helping my students, helping local restaurants, helping struggling people, introducing me to interesting people, he was always there. I don't think I've ever met anyone as generous or nice as Gregg.”
“In 30 years as a professor, there is only one guest speaker I ever had to class who was so mesmerizing and so popular that I asked them back,” says Brian Wansink, Rapp’s friend and former professor of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. “Gregg was a reoccurring guest speaker to my Cornell classroom because he was both mesmerizing and inspiring. Students still mention him years later. He invented the field of Menu Engineering and turned it from an art to a science. Even the smartest graduate students I had were “wowed” by his insights and by his integrity and approachability as a person.”
“Gregg led an unconventional life making up the rules as he created the career he was acclaimed for,” says Tom Frank, co-founder of P.F. Chang’s, and Rapp’s longtime friend and colleague. “Many traditional things in our world are simply a result of ‘small box thinking’. Gregg was able to capture the imagination of our industry with his work on menus because he provided them "bigger box" thinking about how menus impact the long- and short-term profitability and success of their restaurants.” As for that success, Rapp would point to his restaurateur clientele typically achieving over $1,000 in new profit per restaurant, each month after his consultation.
Frank adds, “Gregg’s life, his work, his friendships, the impact he has made on so many of us lives on. We cherish his kindness. We marvel at his science, his art, and his insights changing the way we think about menus in the hospitality industry and beyond. Most of all, anyone who has met Gregg has felt his profound goodness.”
Rapp once said that in his intensive work with restaurateurs, “It’s not just an equation or an algorithm. I want restaurant owners to add their own dynamic to the menu. I try to bring out the heart and soul of the restaurant.” He maintained that personal and singular dynamic he was able to draw out repeatedly led to his clients’ triumphs.
Rapp has been honored with a scholarship established at his alma mater, Washington State University, which will help fund students at WSU who are studying menu design and engineering as a career. Donations may be made at Gregg Rapp Scholarship.com or through the Washington State University Foundation for the "Gregg Rapp Menu Engineering Scholarship." Donors may also contact WSU Foundation's Gift Accounting Office at 509-335-1686 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org