How innovative is the foodservice industry? In an age of disruption, that question determines whether operators can continue to keep their businesses relevant and attract more customers. And, while as a word, innovation is bandied about freely these days, everyone’s definition of it varies.
What is true innovation? Simply, it’s about breaking through the clutter of homogeneity to create something truly unique and creative — something that will change the way customers perceive your offerings, how they behave and, ultimately, help determine whether your business will succeed. Innovation is about reshaping the way we look at things, about letting creativity take hold, without any limitations. It’s about coming up with a great idea and having it inalterably change and improve your business.
Over the past two decades, technology has been at the forefront of a great deal of innovation (see story on p. 25). Starting with the advent of the internet, most of what’s deemed to be innovative and inventive in the past two decades has come through the tentacles of technology. Whether we’re talking about new equipment technology that reduces the time necessary to cook, the array of inventive apps and new delivery models that succeed in creating a buzz. Of course, innovation can also play out in the design elements of a restaurant —how it looks, feels, and even the atmosphere it helps to create. Innovation can also be seen through the restaurant’s dinnerware and how it fits into the bigger picture.
While technology tends to dominate our discussions, it shouldn’t control every aspect of any business — it should be viewed as an enabler to allow operators to focus on the core business elements.
Certainly, in the future, one of the biggest innovations will come through robotics. Already some foodservice operators outside Canada are experimenting with artificial intelligence and one can only imagine that the use of robotics will become more pervasive across all segments — maybe even offering solutions to the labour challenges plaguing this industry.
Ultimately, however, if the industry is to succeed and prosper, innovation will need to impact every facet of the business — from the front of the house to the back of the house to the supply chain and the schools. Each of these important components will need to be continually re-examined, re-evaluated and re-shaped to today’s ever-changing reality. In a world where the words “new” and “unique” inspire interest, where millennials continue to challenge the status quo on a regular basis, and where time marches faster than ever — isn’t it time to make innovation part of your daily mindset?