Idea Management in the Restaurant Industry

February 14, 2019

By Patrik Nilsson

This blog post describes how an establishment in the restaurant industry, particularly a wine and coffee bar, works with idea management. The aforementioned wine and coffee bar is located in Amsterdam and was founded in December 2016. I am no longer an employee of said bar.

The initial ideas are generated by the owner and the members of staff. Each employee characteristically generates ideas within, but not limited to, their area of expertise. For instance, the head chef and sous-chef largely spawn ideas related to the establishment’s food; nevertheless, chefs and other employees are also involved in more structural and organizational ideas. Such ideas include opening hours, task allocations, purchases, and cleaning. Baristas produce ideas with regards to the bar’s coffee program and the sommeliers, understandably, concepts related to wine and other beverages.

The ideas are refined through meetings and interactions within the workplace. Ideas are refined according to the bar’s concept and business plan and meetings are habitually held short, pre-shift and sometimes mid-shift (the bar is open from early morning until late night). Once refined and evaluated with the relevant employees, the ideas are assessed and put into place by the owner of the bar. In other words, the management is part of a flat organization with a negligible hierarchy and the owner is in charge and makes the final decisions. Because of the few guidelines and routines, the bar remains innovative and able to adapt to the external environment through trial and error (its dynamic capability); however, the lack of guidelines also derives issues with regards to employees who prefer structure and routine. Leadership and encouragement are therefore vital in such businesses. Unlike long-established and bigger organizations, where change is slow, ideas in the bar are occasionally generated and implemented during the same day. Along these lines, the restaurant industry naturally utilizes open innovation. The ideas implemented in a restaurant environment is, in a way, experienced immediately, hands-on, by the consumer. Open innovation renders an extensive relationship network not only with customers, but with suppliers, employees, and other restaurants. Dinner pop-ups with renowned chefs and wine dinners with sommeliers in partnership, as well as other collaborations, are for example frequently hosted at the bar by popular demand.

We live in rapidly changing times, undeniably, and I believe one of the biggest challenges that society is facing, concerning idea management, is the increased number of generated ideas. Today, especially in the Western world, influenced by social media and YouTube, ideas are abundant – it is difficult to separate good ideas from bad ones. Furthermore, the inflation of ideas causes an issue where inimitable new ideas are rare and arguably inferior to that of existing ideas.

2 responses to “Idea Management in the Restaurant Industry

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience! It sounds like the bar was quick when it comes to adapt to new trends in the market. A thought I´ve got from reading your post is whether or not all implemented ideas turned out good or if the changes might become too fast-paced?

  2. thanks for this input, I’m following, amongst other things, a small pizzeria chain that has the same problem, diversify and adapt to the always changing environment and innovative request from customers. I work mainly with financial institutions, big companies, where changes are slow and stability is the key. I believe that in this time of environment (restaurant) you need to take a strategical decision. Ether traditional and established with few new ideas coming from the structure, or innovative and flat where the input from the employees is fundamental, but even more the leadership openess and flexibility is key.
    the risk in the second case is that leadership does not stick to the plan long enough to see results, but just put a new idea in place.

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