Many research and development executives do more than simply develop new dishes these days. Some culinarians are holding top management positions at large restaurant companies and are helping to chart their brands’ overall business direction. “It’s easy for chefs to come up with items that taste good,” said Skip Weldon, senior vice president of marketing for Bertucci’s Corp., a 94-unit chain based in Northborough, Mass. “But menu items that taste good, ...

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