The Product Innovation Process

Topics: Food, Innovation, Product management Pages: 25 (8990 words) Published: March 29, 2011
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Quick-service The product innovation process of restaurant chains quick-service restaurant chains Michael C. Ottenbacher Heilbronn University, Heilbronn, Germany, and

Received 20 May 2008 Revised 24 July 2008, 23 September 2008 Accepted 24 September 2008

Robert J. Harrington
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA
Purpose – This paper aims to outline the innovation process activities described by quick-service restaurant (QSR) managers and to compare it with an earlier QSR process model and with those used in other food service settings. Design/methodology/approach – Six semi-structured interviews with QSR chain executives in the USA were conducted to better understand the underlying factors and dimensions that describe successful innovation process practices. Findings – For new QSR menu innovations, the development teams follow a structured approach to reduce the likelihood of failure due to issues such as poor consumer demand or implementation. QSR screen new food innovations approximately five times during the development process. Furthermore, today’s QSR innovation process integrates more sophisticated market research technology and a post-audit is carried out after the new food concept has been launched. In comparison with studies of Michelin-starred chefs QSR development teams use an approach that is much more explicitly structured as a whole due to the larger scale roll-out as well as greater cross-functional and regional differences to consider in the QSR setting. Research limitations/implications – The study was conducted in only one country and on a small sample. Based on an analysis of the findings, the innovation development process of QSR can be broken down into 13 main steps. Compared with earlier hospitality innovation studies, the process in this setting includes multiple screenings for high-risk innovations, and greater emphasis on operational and training issues. Originality/value – The study expands the scope of hospitality innovation research and the findings have important implications not only for QSR settings but also for other restaurant segments, and for other hospitality service endeavours. Keywords Innovation, Product development, Restaurants Paper type Research paper

The importance of innovation as a central component of successful capitalistic endeavors has been proposed in the literature for more than half a century (Burns and Stalker, 1961; Schumpeter, 1934). But analysis of innovation management in foodservice is a much more recent proposition (Jones, 1996; Feltenstein, 1986). The drivers that influence innovative foodservice products are multifaceted and challenging, as consumer tastes and food trends change all the time. Although the overall economy appears to be slowing, the foodservice industry in the USA has grown continuously in the past 17 years and is expected to continue doing so in 2008. US restaurants offer jobs to 13.1 million people, and overall restaurant sales are forecast to reach $558 billion in 2008, a 4.4 percent increase from 2007 (National Restaurant

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management Vol. 21 No. 5, 2009 pp. 523-541 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0959-6119 DOI 10.1108/09596110910967782

IJCHM 21,5


Association, 2007). Some of the most successful and largest restaurant chains are part of the quick-service restaurant (QSR) segment, such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Subway and KFC. Every product seems to go through a life cycle: it is born, goes through several phases, and eventually dies as newer and better products come along. Because all products eventually decline, restaurants must develop new food items to replace aging ones. Innovation helps restaurants keep their product portfolio competitive and thereby achieve competitive advantage. Innovation is a critical issue for prosperity and...
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