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January 2012 Idea Index

Financing: Need start-up cash? Try some of the new crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter that have already helped operators launch their new concepts

Managing: Lighten up

Growth: Want to find growth capital in a tight market, innovate new menu items, come up with cutting edge branding and get better at local-store marketing? Get some franchisees

Innovation: Look outside the industry for new ideas. RPM Pizza got the idea for car-top signs—now ubiquitous in the industry—from Las Vegas taxi cabs

Concepts: To take advantage of the trend toward snacking, the 46-unit steakhouse chain Black Angus recently created a concept-within-a-concept, Bullseye Bar, which focuses on snacks and finger food

Menuing: Consider altering side dishes slightly to easily create snackable items while cross utilizing in the kitchen

Menuing: Think about indulgence in snacking. Customers get to indulge, but in small portions so it doesn’t feel gluttonous

Menuing: Rethink your sacred cows, like Smith & Wollensky did. Their popular and iconic rib eye got  “deconstructed” into a new dish

Preparation: Keep calories down by using a spray bottle to deliver as little oil as you need when roasting veggies, for instance

Beverage: A lot more is being put on draft than beer these days. Try tapping wine, cider, kombucha or other beverages to ease labor and differentiate your bar offerings

Purchasing: If you expect to deal with a lot of gooey cheese in your panini grill, think about a non-stick surface

Beverage: Give tap water some cachet (and maybe a price tag) by infusing it with vegetables, herbs or fresh fruit.   

Beverage: Latch onto other beverage trends like skinny cocktails, kiddie beverages beyond milk and fast food beverages beyond sodas.

Marketing: Tired of Restaurant Week? New Orleans chefs banded together for a special promotion spotlighting local products that out-of-towners might not associate with the area    

Concept: Dine-in kitchens, chef’s tables, food trucks: the deconstruction of the restaurant has been ongoing for a couple of decades now. A new twist: Oakland restaurant Guest Chef does just that: invites a new guest chef in every few weeks, from Top Chef winners to fire fighters   

Trending: Six in 10 consumers say they’d order more dishes with Mediterranean flavors   

Check out this year's Great Ideas.

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