It happens here: Consumer-centric Innovation in Charlotte and beyond


Charlotte Restaurant Week, revisited by Nheeda Enriquez

logo via Queen's Feast

For some reason, my mindmap over the summer about Charlotte Restaurant Week got lots of hits, so I thought I’d revisit the topic.

The winter version of the event is here once again, and like many Charlotteans, I will put my New Year resolutions on hold to participate.  Why is it so successful?  It’s great for restaurants because it fills empty tables during a slow period.   The scarcity of a $30 deal at a fancy restaurant will sucker any diner into trying something new.

Personally, I like it because it’s another reason to bring people together.  But it also cuts down the number of decisions I have to make when ordering off of a menu.  This reminds me of a little publicity blitz by Menu Engineer (that’s right, an engineer) Gregg Rapp went on last fall.  His interviews with Time and the Today Show reveal all the tricks he teaches restaurants as they redesign their menus to get you to spend more on your meal, including using center justification and taking out dollar $igns.  He also uses fanciful descriptions that make their popular dishes hard to resist.

You don’t often get to read a person’s mind as he/she processes a menu to see if these tactics work.  This Charlotte Loafing blogger shares her mental gymnastics on one of Restaurant Week’s participants, Liberty Gastropub, and it looks like the tasty descriptions work on her.



Grocery store delighter: McCormick’s Pre-measured Spices by Nheeda Enriquez

I was at Harris Teeter the other day and caught this little delighter – pre-measured spice packs combined with recipes.  I wished this was around when I was in college, I would have saved myself tons of bland meals because I was too cheap to buy all the spices I needed.  Aside from actually solving for a problem that exists, what I love about it is that it probably didn’t cost a fortune to develop.  It simply re-proportions existing products.  It reminds me of a marketing trend of packaging smaller portions of goods to bring down the price so that consumers in developing countries can afford them.

click for larger

I realize that this is technically not a “delighter” per se, but the solution itself sure delighted me anyway!



Black Friday Delighter by Nheeda Enriquez

flickr photo credit: highstrungloner

My love affair with Apple is no secret, and this probably doesn’t qualify as a delighter so much as an enabling process innovation, but while I was at home last week in NYC, I made a pit stop at the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue.

Unfortunately, it was also Black Friday, and given that the product I needed was for myself and not a gift, I gasped when I saw the hundreds of shoppers as I walked down the grand spiral staircase.  The thought of waiting in an enormous line to pay for a little FM transmitter made me want to do without it for one more road trip.

But then I discovered that every store associate was a walking point of sale.  Each one was armed with what seemed like an iPhone on steroids, complete with bar code scanner and credit card slot.  They emailed a receipt to an address already tied to the credit card from a previous purchase and I was in and out in less than 5 minutes.

What a game-changer!  Apple banks a lot more sales per hour, they save their customers gobs of time, and they have a system that can be licensed to other retailers on a platform of products they already sell.  Genius.



2-minute mindmap – My love/hate relationship with Starbucks by Nheeda Enriquez
October 13, 2009, 1:03 am
Filed under: 2 min mindmap, branding, retail and restaurants | Tags: , ,

It’s been a while since I posted a mindmap, and although this doesn’t really count as one, I did take a little coffee break today and documented it.  Starbucks is one of those places we all love to hate, yet hate to admit we love.

sb_sm

click for larger version



A quick visit to a recent past: Part 3 by Nheeda Enriquez

I’m off traveling for a week, so I wanted to take this opportunity to revisit three “timeless” posts on broader innovation topics.  The third is about how we might tackle an unusual constraint and make it work for us.

Enjoy!
Nheeda

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Innovating restaurant menus
May 13, 2009

courtesy of cleveland.comphoto via cleveland.com

Contrary to popular belief, innovation actually loves extreme constraint.  This economic downturn is an example of one, and many new companies were borne out of a recession.  New business owners find compelling needs to fill, and they recognize that they must survive or die in challenging times.  Starutps learn to fail and adjust quickly, adapting in ways that may not have been considered before.

New regulations are another type of constraint that force companies to innovate (whether or not they agree with it.)  I’m in NYC this week, and I am reminded of a law instituted last year mandating restaurants to post the number of calories of each of their menu items.   I’ve heard anecdotes of some restaurants changing recipes in order to keep the interest of customers with their newfound awareness of caloric content.

It also reminds me of a story I heard about Charlotte’s own Ratcliffe on the Green delivering more value to attract customers that now carry lighter wallets.  Instead of sacrificing on the quality of their local ingredients, they’ve switched to a Brasserie-style menu, an interesting paradigm-shift that I hope to taste soon.



A quick visit to a recent past: Part 2 by Nheeda Enriquez

I’m off traveling for a week, so I wanted to take this opportunity to revisit three “timeless” posts on broader innovation topics.  The second is about recognizing clever “delighters” and why something so little can actually mean quite a lot.

Enjoy!
Nheeda

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Lunchtime delighter!
May 29, 2009

I’m always on the lookout for delighters, which are unexpected little features you find in products and service that can really make your day.  They’re generally not widely advertised (ie “fastest processor in this price range of laptops!”) but are left to be discovered by a user who then goes on to spread the love and create buzz around the product (hence this blog post.)

lowesbag

I visited Lowes Foods for the first time to grab a quick sandwich, and I was delightfully surprised to find this handy bag, saving the typical deciphering of a deli counter that’s new to you: understanding the protocols, what’s available and at what price.  I checked off the boxes for the different ingredients I wanted.  Contrast this with the self-serve touchscreen at Jason’s Deli (or Wawa, for those from the northern part of the country.)  It reminds us that sometimes a good solution for 80% of the population can be simple, low-tech, and inexpensive.  AND it can help you carry your lunch.



Reverse Engineering a Fantasy Football draft party by Nheeda Enriquez

In honor of the NFL season kicking off this week, I highlight Scott Graf’s amusing story on WFAE about local bars that host groups who conduct their fantasy football drafts.  Though I’m not an active fantasy sports fan myself, I know plenty of people who are, and I’ve always found this market and the tons of products that target them fascinating.

I do, however, like to fantasize about the conversations that marketing and development groups have when they’re trying to decide whether or not to try something a little more innovative and counter to what’s commonly done.  Can you imagine what that Jetblue meeting was like when they were deciding if they should try its “All-you-can-Jet ” unlimited travel pass?

It probably wasn’t quite as hard to convince the management of Midtown Sundries or Hickory Tavern to create special packages for fantasy football leagues, it’s still fun to reverse engineer what they might have been thinking, and then use that to inspire other ideas.

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Boy, what would the package for a celebrity funeral at an amusement park look like?