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Thirty great ideas: Part 3 in a five-part series

Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP

OAK BROOK, Ill.-- Large or small, an “a-ha” moment can change your business, your momentum and your morale. Inspired by the ideation stage of the innovation process, Fare has pulled together a list of great ideas from all corners of the foodservice and retail industries.

This collection is meant to inspire action for your next great idea. Whenever you’re feeling creatively stumped, just open this up and start ideating.

Following is the third installment of our 30 Great Ideas. Watch for the next issue of Fare Digest for the continuation, and get the March issue of Fare for the complete collection.

Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

13. Burning Wall of Fire
What’s your signature? California Tortilla, a 35-store fast-casual burrito chain (in airports under the Burrito Elito banner), placed its signature on the wall -- the “Wall of Flame,” with nearly 75 hot sauces. Sauces are complimentary for in-store use, and bottles of each are available for purchase.

14. Let It Flash
With competition in mind, many operators don’t allow photography in their stores. But the tools today’s shoppers have at their disposal -- Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Foodspotting -- actually can generate positive attention. Remember, customers love buzz. By letting them snap pics, you’re bringing buzz in the most valuable way: peer-to-peer.

15. Condiment Craze
Condiments are the ultimate low-risk risk. They allow operators and consumers to experiment with menu ideas without completely leaving their comfort zone. It’s also an easy way to allow for customization, a major desire of millennials.

Manufacturers are enabling the condiment craze with unique spins on familiar flavors, such as Heinz’s ketchup made with balsamic instead of the usual white vinegar. Frank’s RedHot has expanded beyond its Buffalo-wing staple with barbecue, chile-lime and sweet chili varieties.

Meanwhile, unique gourmet varieties (such as Skillet Bacon Jam) and lesser-known ethnic condiments are hitting the mainstream, including sriracha, hoisin, harissa and Korean chili paste gochujuag.

16. Soup Chill
Are you not selling refrigerated soups? Not yet. Panera recently introduced refrigerated soups in Target stores with grocery sections, while Whole Foods, Safeway and others are offering high-quality store brands.

For the consumer, it’s a fresh alternative for a wholesome heat-and-eat meal. For retailers, it’s an easy item in the open-air cooler for customers to take back to their home, office or dorm.

17. Format as Cuisine
Chipotle’s success can in part be attributed to its sourcing of quality ingredients. It can also be attributed to the format: a handful of components, ready to be built to order, in countless combinations. The company realized the format isn’t exclusive to Mexican cuisine and has translated it to Southeast Asian food at ShopHouse in Washington, D.C.

Customers choose between a sandwich or rice bowl, and then pick a protein, vegetable, sauce and garnish from options such as pork and chicken meatballs, wok-fried Chinese broccoli, red curry and green papaya slaw. And the concept is ready for scale: All sauces and marinades already come from a commissary in Chipotle’s home state of Colorado.

18. Safe, Streamlined Sourcing
Since 2009, the Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative has been working to drive the adoption of GS1 Standards for bar codes within the foodservice supply chain. The idea is for everyone to have the same data-sharing platform and pull the same, standardized information about products.

Why the big deal? It would streamline ordering and enable traceability in the event of recalls or food-safety issues. If an operator is trying to plan more healthful or allergen-free menus, they’ll be able to research information all in one place. GS1 hopes to get 75% of manufacturers, distributors and operators using the system by 2015. Recent members include Aramark, Brinker and Dr Pepper Snapple.

Watch for the next issue of Fare Digest for Nos. 19-24. A special thanks goes to our team of innovators who helped us create this list: Joseph Bona of CBX in New York; Melissa Abbott and her fellow consumer-trends gurus at The Hartman Group in Bellevue, Wash.; Ken Toong of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst; Chris Koetke at Kendall College in Chicago; Dan Chiado and the rest of the team at Olson Communications in Chicago; and Aaron Noveshen and Judy Hsu at The Culinary Edge, San Francisco.

Abbie Westra, CSP/Winsight By Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP
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