I found an Australian report about innovation in the restaurant industry (Submission to the Cutler Review by Restaurant & Catering Australia, pdf, April 2008), from which I picked out the following points.
- The majority of the innovation is product innovation and therefore does not lead to significant productivity improvements.
- The genesis of a new process should still be seen by a business as a competitive advantage. The development of these processes, however, requires a critical mass of thought that is often not evident in a small business.
- The critical mass of funds required to change a process often means that innovation only occurs in small businesses when they change hands.
Obviously one form of innovation is to change the menu or introduce new items - in other words product innovation. For example, Nigel Green describes how his local pub was Thinking Adaptive and Adoptive over Fish & Chips - applying Cynefin to make sense of weak signals from regular customers.
A poorly designed process doesn't only reduce customer satisfaction. If it increases the length of time customers wait at tables for service, then it reduces the number of customers that can be accommodated in a session. Process innovation may therefore have a bigger impact on the business viability of a restaurant than product innovation.
Furthermore, the kind of bloggers I read generally have more to say about process management than cooking. So I have got a few contrasting examples here.
In my earlier post Agility and Variation, I described the frustration of David J Anderson's Sushi Lunch. Anderson was taken to a restaurant in Japan where the food was excellent but the process was broken. Anderson being a follower of Goldratt's Theory of Constraints, he diagnosed the problem in terms of a poor division of responsibility, although I took the opportunity to point out that the case also provided a counter-example to his usual line on eliminating variation.
Now for two more successful process examples. David Wertheimer describes Process innovation at Moe's (a Mexican restaurant) while in Process Improvement and the Chaat Cafe, Chris Bird talks about the stages of innovation in his favourite Indian restaurant, and throws in a brief mention of VPEC-T.
For those who like abstraction, all these restaurants have the same basic requirements. But what is interesting about these cases is that they are all different - a wide variety of problems and issues. I am also struck by the variety of problem-solving and other methods that are suggested - Cynefin, Theory of Constraints, VPEC-T.