The idea to add bacon to the vegan menu at Veggie Grill set off a two-year odyssey in search of a plant-based bacon substitute that mimics the real thing -- a hunt that thus far has proved fruitless, said product development chief Ray White. Veggie Grill's quandary is an extreme version of the new-product development issues that routinely lead to activity in restaurant test kitchens across the country, a quest that starts with an idea and involves plenty of testing and trial and error, executives say.

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