When looking at the top of the list on Nation’s Restaurant News’ Top 200, it’s clear the leading restaurants are constantly innovating. Here are a few examples:
- #9 – Domino’s
- As the delivery challenge continues to confound restaurants everywhere, Domino’s is the chain most brands want to be like. Today the company is more logistics and technology than pizza. But the pizza? The company actually admitted that it sucked a few years ago and upgraded that as well.
Domino’s allows customers to track their pizza every step of the way on their phones as the pizza is being made. Hello, instant gratification. They’ve been using their own drivers for years and continue to develop new, efficient ways to deliver food to customers’ doors.
- #6 – Burger King
- Someone had to do it. Someone had to be the first brand to offer a legitimately tasty plant-based burger on a national basis. Why not Burger King – the brand who has brought us unique creations like the Cheetos Chicken Fry.
Enter the Impossible Whopper. While other brands have tested veggie burgers and regional chains have added them to their menus, BK created a burger that vegetarians and flexitarians could enjoy throughout the country.
- #5 – Taco Bell
- Taco Bell Hotel! A hotel fully branded as Taco Bell? For non-Taco Bell fans, it probably sounds like the last place they’d want to spend a night. But rooms at this hotel takeover sold out in minutes. With ideas like Taco Bell clothing and Taco Bell Cantinas that sell alcoholic beverages, it’s clear that the Bell is willing to indulge its fans’ cravings.
Much like fellow Yum! Brands innovator KFC, Taco Bell is creating a lifestyle brand for its fervent followers and no innovative idea is too weird to be considered.
Stores, Meet Restaurants.
What can stores learn from these restaurant innovators? Understanding customers will guide innovation. Let’s look at struggling retailers as comparative examples.
At some point during JCPenney’s struggles, what if the retailer came out and said, we talked to our customers, and our stores suck. We’re studying what’s wrong and we’re going to revamp the entire store.
Instead they’ve made incremental changes to pricing, product and stores, over and over again, which haven’t made an impact. Incremental does not work in today’s retail world.
Victoria’s Secret’s struggles have been no secret. They’ve been unwilling to adapt to a changing market. Though it’s quite odd to compare burgers to underwear, is BK changing its entire menu to be vegetarian? Nope, it’s offering one new sandwich that satisfies a specific segment of their customer set.
Are consumers asking VS to change its entire product line? Not at all, they’re just looking for more inclusive products. Their customers are talking, now they just need to listen so that innovation can happen.
Lastly, let’s talk Toys "R" Us. Sadly, Geoffrey the Giraffe and his friends failed to recognize how influential their brand could be. A toy store where kids can freely play with all of the toys? A showroom store makes perfect sense for toys.
We all wanted to be Toys "R" Us kids. Why didn’t TRU take advantage of that nostalgia and create a Taco Bell style lifestyle brand before it was too late? Instead, Geoffrey’s most powerful statement in years was his goodbye tweet.
Come on retailers, listen to your customers and understand the innovative ideas they are asking you for. Look at the innovative restaurant brands of the world. There are lessons to be applied to your businesses before the competition overwhelms you.