Foodservice by Design

Team members from Profitality-Labor Guru discuss how industrial engineering can be applied to the foodservice industry.


When Are You Going to Finish Your New Prototype?

Developing a new prototype is a project that can be equally exciting and daunting. But how do foodservice professionals know when their prototype development efforts are complete? Well, the answer is trickier than you might think. 

The title of this article presents a somewhat daunting and conflicting dilemma foodservice operators from all industry segments face. And the answer is not as easy to come by as task-oriented people might like it to be.

Working on a new prototype is a project that everyone wants to be involved with since this initiative tends to be high profile, strategic and sexy. Those concepts not working on a new prototype or refining an existing one, face a deeper issue since they run the risk of becoming irrelevant in the market place and falling behind. My recommendation is to get on with it, otherwise, for sure, you will never finish.

For those working on a new prototype, look ahead to the end of your current project to see if you can answer the question above, but be careful because this process is trickier than it first appears.

Changes in customer preferences, behaviors and lifestyles mandate that brands continue to evolve to stay competitive and relevant in the marketplace. Brands that fail to move forward with the customers they serve run the risk of perishing, no matter how established they may be. It's that simple. I was recently at the Capital Round Table in New York City, participating in a panel on foodservice investments and we discussed this very subject.

Even something as simple as menu evolution is critical. If you don't menu innovate you can die, but if you menu innovate wrong, you can kill your brand. This is where the topic of "efficient menu innovation" that I have previously written about comes from.

And if you think your concept is too big or too well established to update its prototype, think again. Take a look at what Dunkin Donuts just did in releasing not one but four new prototypes.

I would submit to you that to really develop a new and significantly different prototype, the concept should address both the form and functional aspects of design. This includes the operating parameters and systems as well as the investment.

While the retail designers focus on the customer journey don't overlook the team member/employee journey. One without the other can lead to a sub-optimized facility. Retail design developed independently of the functional design is like putting lipstick on a pig.

 Operational Parameters
-Platforms (equipment & technology)
-Place (layout)
-People (deployment)

Earlier this year restaurant development + design magazine published an article describing Domino's Pizza's new prototype. The essence of this effort was to develop a profoundly different retail design to drive a much better customer experience, while maintaining the efficiency of the core concept. Doing so ensures that Domino's will not sacrifice the efficiency of the employee and operational model. In other words, this project sought to maintain or improve the employee journey, while dramatically improving the customer journey/experience.

So did you figure out the answer to the question in the title of this article?

The reality is that proactive brands begin a cycle of new prototype designs, almost right after they finish the previous one. Perhaps this suggests that good brands never finish developing and evolving their prototypes. From a psychological perspective, though, I guess it is good for a project team to achieve an end before they (immediately?) embark on a new beginning. It certainly provides good press and marks progress in the concept. It is up to brand management to decide how to deal with this conflict and dilemma, but they have to figure it out and continue to evolve the prototype and concept to thrive in the market place.

I told you it was a tricky question!