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Innovation is at its core what separates the great from the rest of the pack, regardless of industry or pursuit. And in today’s hospitality industry that’s no exception where competition and consumer demand are fiercer than ever.

Though while innovation is obviously vital, it also can be a double-edged sword because the vast majority of companies feel there is a major gap between their efforts and actual achievements. So if you find yourself in this quandary to make innovation a reality for your bar or restaurant, start by understanding and applying these important innovation fundamentals to your own operation.

1. Take a step back: Down time is a rare luxury in the bar and restaurant industry. But by allowing yourself to step back and process your thoughts in a low-stress environment you unlock your potential for more creativity and innovation. Empowering your staff to do the same also enables them to become more integral to the innovation process.

2. Leverage new technology: Customer-interfacing technology tools, such as self-ordering kiosks, interactive tablets and digital signage not only demonstrate that your bar or restaurant is ahead of the curve, it also makes running your business more efficient.

3. Strive to be customer-centric: While it’s tempting to build your restaurant concept and menu based on your own vision and passion, never allow that to hinder your ability to satisfy your customers’ demands. If you aren’t sure what your customers want, inviting them to fill out web-based surveys and brief guest comment cards provide valuable feedback on how your bar or restaurant is doing.

4. Challenge the status quo: What seems to be the best practice for other restaurants may not necessarily be the case for yours. For instance, some restaurants are doing away with the standard U.S. tipping system by including a standard service charge on every check. One local café in Massachusetts simply asks customers to circle which percentage of gratuity they want to leave their server (15, 18 or 20) with the equivalent corresponding dollar amount already calculated.

5. Don’t overly define team roles:  While clarifying roles, expectations and job responsibilities are important to keep your staff accountable and productive, overly defined procedures and job descriptions can also be counter-productive and restrictive. The most innovative companies are built on an environment that fosters both collaboration and participation among all employees.

6. Beware of stagnancy: With the constant pressures and demands of running a bar or restaurant, the risk for burnout is high. And burnout often leads to stagnancy. If you feel that your business is getting stagnant, it may be time for reinvention, even if it means implementing small changes such as a new menu item or subtle enhancements to the décor.

7. Keep a close beat on consumer and industry trends: In order to be innovative in the hospitality industry, you need to be ahead of the ever-changing consumer demands and trends affecting today’s bars and restaurants. The National Restaurant Association offers a plethora of industry information and resources to help you stay ahead of the curve.

Do you have a thought or tip to share about how you apply innovation to your own business? Drop us a line in the comment box below.
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