Three ways to fire up your innovation strategy

By Matt Rolfe

For most businesses, innovation is a necessity. It’s how we create and develop product offerings that meet the needs and expectations of our ever-evolving customer base. The best business operators have a process to evaluate innovation options and then take action on the opportunities that best match their company or brand. This results in product launches, menu specials and service delivery strategies that come from a proactive, rather than reactive, position.

The challenge in our industry is that many operators follow trends based on the success that others are having within the marketplace. A knee-jerk reaction to our perception of a competitor’s success, or to customers’ requests, may not align to our business model or brand. This can create confusion and concern for customers and staff alike, and end up hurting our business.

I am sure we can all think of a time when a sales representative pushed a product on us that was so far from our concept it hurt our business relationship with them. We cannot afford another flavoured spirit or specialty beer that is going to sit on our shelves.

With all the risk that comes with chasing innovation, the rewards can be significant. The key is to approach innovation strategically. In his book Great by Choice, Jim Collins speaks about the concept of “preserving the core and stimulating progress.’’

Barmetrix has adopted this concept and created a process for our customers to follow when considering innovation opportunities. The intention is to always focus on what has led to your success to date and complement it with innovation where possible.

Three-step innovation evaluation process:

Step #1 – Decide who owns innovation

If no one person is responsible, then no one is responsible. In other words, innovation is important and someone needs to own it in your business. This person is responsible to captain the conversation and produce the information in Step 2 each month and quarter.

Step #2 – Monthly review and quarterly decision-making

We have our clients set aside time in their monthly meetings to discuss and answer the following questions. This takes no more than 15 minutes, but will ensure you are proactively discussing innovation each month.

Are all of our core food and beverage menu items performing to their expectation?

What trends in the marketplace are we seeing or hearing about that we should pay attention to?

What customer requests are coming up on the radar this month?

In your quarterly meetings I suggest that one person on your team is responsible to pull sales trend data from your POS system and report on the trends in your business. What products have seen growth, declined or been neutral in the quarter? Based on this actual data, the monthly trend review and customer feedback you can decide if changes are required.

Step #3 – Commit to taking action

Those who win with innovation have committed themselves to taking action. On a set frequency they make menu changes or beverage program improvements. If your monthly and quarterly review leads you to the conclusion that a change is needed, commit to taking action. Committing today to making change at certain points throughout the year, no matter how big or small, will keep your team focused on innovation action, not just innovation conversation.

The key is to keep moving forward in your business. The process above is simple and it works. Not all of the changes you implement will be a success; you have to be comfortable in failing forward. But with constant change and evolution in your business, you will be sure to stay fresh and relevant with your customer base.

About the author:

Matt Rolfe is the CEO of Barmetrix Global, a hospitality coaching and consulting firm that helps clients multiply profits, maximize staff engagement and deliver remarkable guest services by design. Contact Matt at or call 416-367-2263 for more information.

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