Five Keys to Restaurant Innovation

There’s no doubt that the next decade will be more disruptive for the restaurant industry than the last 50 years combined. Analysis from Aaron Allen & Associates, an international restaurant consulting group, suggests that “technology has and will continue to make day-to-day interactions more frictionless, and we’ll never want to go back to a less-convenient model.” This desire for convenience is what is driving emerging technologies that optimize customer relations and managing operations into the mainstream.

As restaurants meld with technology, it’s important for entrepreneurs to understand what it takes to be innovative in an ever-changing landscape. These five keys are not meant to be all-encompassing. Rather, they are step stones for entrepreneurs to consider while building their next business.

  1. Think Like A Startup

Every day is Day 1 of your business’ life. That means that you need to plan on facing every challenge imaginable, and ready yourself for a few surprises. This mindset will keep you aware of the inner-workings of your business.

But, this mindset doesn’t just apply to the functionality of your business. It also applies to how you treat your employees. Restaurant employees work under the constant strain of knowing that one day they may be replaced by a robot. In fact, many restaurants are already heading in this direction by utilizing smart kiosks and delivery robots. Making sure you take the time to truly appreciate the work your employees do will set you apart from other companies that treat employee like cogs in a machine. In turn, this could cut down on turnover, which can cost a business up to $500,000 a year in revenue.

  1. Tolerate Failure

In short: be willing to try new things. Don’t be consumed by a fear of failing. Taking risks requires people to step out of their comfort zones. Tolerating creative thinking with no risk to the thinker’s reputation is an important aspect to impart on any business. For restaurants, this means allowing your chefs the creative room to develop your menu. There may be occasions where you eat a couple hundred dollars in wasted product. But, don’t let that small failure consume your business.

  1. Establish Constraints

Going back to the example in Number 2, while you should allow your employees to think creatively, you should also constrain some of those expectations. Some employees may have great ideas that just aren’t practical for your business. By establishing constraints—time, resources, money—you inevitably force people to think outside the box for solutions to problems.

  1. Incentivize the Change You Want to See

If you want your restaurant to be known as the friendliest in town, incentivize your employees to be nice. This could be in the form of a gift card for being recognized on a review, or any other reward system you can think of. This incentivizing allows your employees to think creatively to achieve both their goals, and yours.

  1. Attract the Best Talent, and Keep It

Social media, the internet, crowdsourcing. These are all ways for restaurateurs to attract and retain top-tier talent. Innovations don’t always come from a single source. Instead, they often come from multiple outlets working in concert. For restaurants, this scenario often plays out in the form of both front-of-house and back-of-house teams working on a single problem together.


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