Efficient Innovation in Foodservice

Juan Martinez, Principal, Profitability, Miami
Juan Martinez, Principal,
Profitality, Miami

For a foodservice brand to continue to succeed its menu must continue to evolve with customers' tastes through the introduction of new products and promotional items. Having said this, I would add that the wrong application of these new offerings could inadvertently impede the employees' ability to execute the new and existing products, ultimately affecting the customer experience. Indeed, efficient innovation, as one executive refers to it, can determine whether a concept continues to evolve in the eyes of its customers and deliver on its brand promise.

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It is up to the menu innovators to ensure their work is done in a way that facilitates efficient and seamless execution at the restaurant level. The menu development team can come up with most any new product in a controlled setting. But the most critical challenge the team has to address when developing new products is to make sure it falls within the capabilities of the operators and the limitations of the restaurants. Doing so ensures proper execution of idea at the unit level, thus achieving efficient innovation.

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The guiding question we must ask is, "How will the restaurants be able to execute?" In answering this question, it is imperative that we consider of all the operational parameters.

To minimize the cost of implementation, concepts should leverage the existing equipment and consider how the new items that will drive optimum performance and return on investment. Sometimes a small investment can go a long way to ensure the optimization of a new menu item, making a positive impact on the brand and maximizing the investment. The process should include a set of different solutions and an estimated return-on-investment (ROI) for each option. (In my next blog, I will provide some challenges with figuring out the ROI impact.)

One example of efficient innovation is the implementation of the McDonald's McCafe concept. Using the traditional manual processes to produce frozen and espresso beverages at QSR speeds can be challenging from an equipment and a labor perspective. McDonald's realized that following such methods would likely impact its mainstream business, especially the drive-thru. To compensate for this potential impact, the company reached out to equipment suppliers to develop the right equipment for the job.

If you have not seen the automated unit McDonalds uses to prepare the espresso and the frozen drinks, I suggest you take a look. It is a thing of beauty. The company clearly succeeded at executing efficient menu innovation, including dealing with the challenges posed by incorporating a new operation into the existing facility and working with suppliers to develop the proper platform. Now McDonald's has expanded to fruit-based drinks, which offer other additional service and operational challenges, but I bet that they will figure it out.

Similarly to McDonald's, brands should reach out to the appropriate outside resources as they go through the continuous innovation process. It can be beneficial to leverage the combined expertise of internal and external industry resources, including suppliers and consultants, to provide support. The foodservice professionals managing these concepts know their businesses well and their knowledge can be complemented by properly leveraging the expertise of the supply chain that serves them.

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