Article contributed by Jaimi St. John, Vice President of Food Experience, Nextbite
Slow and steady wins the race? With all due respect to Aesop’s “The Tortoise and the Hare,” slow and steady is the fastest way to ensure you’re left behind in a digitally driven restaurant industry that is moving faster than ever before. Slow and steady is great for small, incremental gains, but it may not create breakthrough products, define your brand, or take your company to the head of the pack. To win in the restaurant industry today we must focus on decreasing time to market.
Early in my career, I often worked in corporate innovation with Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread, where the innovation cycle and time to market (TTM) was marked on a calendar, multiple years out and marched through a traditional innovation funnel and stage gate process . At the time, this worked quite nicely and the results for the two chains were clearly impressive, but in today’s digitally driven restaurant industry, things are changing fast and innovation is driving dynamic new cycles for success.
Fueled by what I’d learned at the chains, but passionate about pushing boundaries and moving faster, I shifted to building culinary innovation teams and systems for purpose-driven startups. Decreasing time to market can increase chances for success in a crowded space, especially when paired with a true purpose and mission for positive impact. This core belief is one of the reasons I was attracted to join its Nextbite exciting and burging food experience team.
Nextbite is focused on helping existing restaurants take advantage of under-utilized kitchens and dayparts to quickly and nimbly enter the off-premises dining explosion and reap the benefits. The TTM principle is fundamental for Nextbite’s approach and is reinforced by its restaurant partners’ success, from small, local restaurants to larger multi-units and corporations. The company’s capacity to reduce innovation time to market is the leading differential for success.
Why TTM is Important
There are over 800,000 restaurants in the US, and we believe that 90% of them have excess capacity in their kitchen during various dayparts. At Nextbite, we match those underutilized kitchen operators with in-demand brands, along with a range of solutions including data-driven marketing, a distribution channel and a suite of technology services and solutions. Creating and launching brands that consumers crave, yet are executable for operators in today’s economic climate, requires an unwavering commitment to innovation time to market.
It’s not just important for the restaurant business either. A 2020 Navigator survey revealed how business leaders’ mindset shifted during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the study, just 17% cited shareholder returns as defining success in the future. Their new benchmarks were innovation (49%), agility (47%) and speed to market (40%). Source
3 Ways to Decrease TTM
- Track revenue goals: Ensuring you assign and track revenue goals for your innovation aspirations will drive accountability and ensure cross-functional involvement and commitment. This effort requires all hands on deck – doing so will decrease TTM and help you know what is and isn’t working quickly.
- Pilot smart and iterate: Use pilot markets to launch and iterate rapidly while keeping risk at an acceptable level for your organization. Rapid prototyping prior to launch, followed by pilot iteration will decrease speed to market and ensure operational and consumer success.
- Take advantage of outsourcing: Parts or all of the innovation cycle and TTM process can be outsourced to experts dedicated to this work. Outsourcing to a team of experts will decrease TMM and allow you to focus on your core business. Nextbite offers restaurant operators an established ecosystem of trusted partners to work with to develop and launch the right virtual concepts that fit a certain daypart, a type of cuisine or a demographic. Working the outsourcing model is a smart way to accelerate TTM.
Nextbite Approach to TTM
At Nextbite, we are obsessed with data and insights to help us understand the detailed nuances of today’s off-premises dining, and create the most on-trend menu concepts and brands.
In terms of TTM, we are committed to and invest heavily in rapid prototyping in our innovation test kitchen. The team combines speed and urgency, while still maintaining painstaking rigor to quality, taste, deliverability and presentation. A recent partnership with IHOP is a great example, as our teams collaborated to quickly develop and pilot two delicious, on-trend virtual restaurant brands. We extended kitchen utilization using their pantry ingredients to build out the concepts and it is easily fulfilled through IHOP’s existing restaurant base.
Finally, success improving TTM is dependent on the company and team culture in place. At Nextbite we support and drive TTM objectives by fostering a creative, entrepreneurial, learn-forward spirit and a corporate wide commitment to agility and flexibility. The good news for restaurants working with Nextbite is that we check all the boxes for TTM so that you can adopt and capitalize on the benefits that fit in with your particular business – Nextbite will do the rest.
Decreasing time to market is not easy, but it pays off with increased innovation driving virtual menus for today’s marketplace. The race we win will result in more satisfied consumers and a thriving restaurant business overall.
For restaurants looking to unlock the full capacity of their kitchen with Nextbite, while adding a low cost extra source of revenue, more information can be found online at their website.
Jaimi St. John, Vice President of Food Experience, Nextbite: As VP of Food Experience for Nextbite, a leader and innovator in virtual restaurants, Jaimi leads the culinary strategic vision for Nextbite, partnering with its brand development teams to create new delivery-only menus. Jaimi is a classically-trained chef with extensive operations and marketing experience at Chipotle and Panera. An expert in food systems, Jaimi teaches courses in Food Systems and Innovation for the Culinary Institute of America’s Master’s in Food Business program. She is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and holds a Master’s degree in Food Systems from New York University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.