Restaurants use contests to tap customer creativity

In one of the latest contests prompting consumers to help restaurants create new menu items, Culver's ButterBurgers & Frozen Custard is asking customers to develop new sandwiches based on the 480-unit chain's signature hamburger.

Entrants in the Culver's contest can post their ButterBurger recipes at http://contest.culvers.com/ through Jun 30. Entries will be voted on by the public and the winner will be selected from the top 50 by Culver's chief executive and co-founder, Craig Culver, and executive chef Jim Doak.

“Although the actual ButterBurger will never change, the toppings and creativity are all up for grabs,” the company said in a release.

The winner will be flown on a private jet to Culver’s test kitchen to help refine the menu item with Culver and Doak. The winner also will be taken on a visit to the first Culver’s in Sauk City, Wis., where his or her creation will be served to restaurant guests.

Dunkin' Donuts and Papa John's Pizza have held similar contest this year.

Last week, Dunkin' announced that Rachel Davis of Sharon, Mass., had won its second annual "Create Dunkin's Next Donut" contest. She picked up $12,000 for her creation, the Monkey-see Monkey-donut, which is filled with bananas Foster and topped with chocolate icing and peanut butter shavings. Dunkin' will feature the winning doughnut as a limited-time offer this fall.

The Papa’s Specialty Pizza Challenge, a contest by Papa John’s Pizza, is still under way until June 14. Competitors are asked to create and name the chain’s next specialty pizza, which would join the ranks of the chain’s Tuscan Six Cheese, BBQ Chicken & Bacon and Spinach Alfredo pizzas.

The winner not only will receive pizza for life from the chain and a chance to appear in a TV commercial, but also will share in the sales of the new pizza for a to-be-determined period of time, with a possible payout of $10,000.

Entries should be submitted to the company’s Facebook page: Facebook.com/papajohns.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]