Creative Destruction

The business community has had some big hits as of late. Department store giant Macy's announced plans to close 100 of its brick and mortar locations across the country in an effort to stabilize its operations. Sears unveiled plans to sell its Craftsman brand of tools to Stanley Black & Decker for $900 million.

I could go on and on but you get the point: the start of 2017 has not been very kind to legacy brands. Of course, the fact that legacy brands continue to struggle with the dynamics of today's marketplace is nothing new. It's been open season on them for quite some time as companies that once set the pace for their respective segments struggle to keep pace with a changing competitive landscape.

Macy's and Sears' woes do, however, offer a few lessons the foodservice industry should heed.

For example, it's important to remember that what made your business successful in the past will not guarantee prosperity in the future. Running a successful business is kind of like being a contestant on the reality television show "Survivor:" You have to earn your place on the island every day by providing value on your customers' terms — not yours.

Macy's and Sears were once icons in the retail community. Today many people see them as out-of-touch, monolithic symbols of a bygone era. To remain relevant, companies must continue to fan their entrepreneurial fires, no matter how mature an organization gets. Take, for example, the eight restaurant concepts profiled in this issue's Growth Chains feature. All of these chains are happy with the direction they're headed but are far from satisfied. They want more and continue to invest in infrastructure, people and more to keep their operations vibrant and relevant in the eyes of their customers.

Delivery represents an area in which many operators see an opportunity to build greater relevancy among consumers. Those that continue to invest do so to with the intent of counteracting the impact of declining customer traffic levels. While delivery offers lots of promise, having the proper menu and infrastructure is necessary to enhance the perception of a brand in the eyes of the customer instead of eroding it. Read more about in Taking Foodservice into the Home.

We continue to live and work in a period of creative destruction, where new ideas, preferences and technologies potentially could spell the end for members of the old guard. But whether that actually comes to fruition rests clearly on the leaders of the old guard, who must balance longtime customers' values with the values of their new and emerging client base.

Successful business leaders in today's foodservice industry will become adept at walking a very tricky and often treacherous tightrope that honors their organizations' past while moving into the future — a daunting challenge in even the best of times.

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