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50 Great Ideas

50 Great Ideas

50 Great Ideas

In today’s hypercompetitive restaurant industry, the slightest edge can make a difference. The ideas collected here range from small tweaks such as dedicated gum-disposal slips to transformational changes such as solar-powered restaurants. But each one has the potential to make a positive impact for operators.

50 Great Ideas

50. Formalizing innovation

Starbucks is launching its 20,000-square-foot Tryer Innovation Center with the goal of bringing new ideas to life in 100 days. The incubator-style lab will look at store design, beverage platforms and customer experience, said CEO Kevin Johnson in April.

Cracker Barrel is catering to groups that don’t need a full catering order but have a group too large for individual orders. The chain introduced its picnic box offering, with large-format sides and 12 pieces of fried chicken, as an alternate off-premise option for smaller groups.

To increase efficiency, Firehouse Subs’ new prototype kitchen is 25% smaller than the original, and that means smaller equipment. New custom-designed sandwich steamers have drawers that can be stacked to save space and steam more subs at once.

After investing in wind farms to power its restaurants late last year, Starbucks stepped up its use of solar energy. As of this spring, two solar-powered complexes in Texas now supply electricity to 360 Starbucks outlets in the state.

The Purple Pig in Chicago donated a portion of mocktail sales in January and May to NoStigmas, a nonprofit support network for people affected by mental illness and suicide—issues that are prevalent in the restaurant industry.

As more brands make sustainability a pillar, it’s playing out beyond the menu. Walmart’s new employee vests, for example, are made partly from recycled plastic bottles.

At University of Wisconsin-Superior, Sous Chef Sandy Thompson makes use of excess food with dog treats. She puts leftovers such as sweet potatoes, oatmeal, turkey bacon and peas in the freezer and whips up a batch of treats when she has 16 quarts’ worth, adding just egg and flour. The operation donates most of the treats to the humane society.

Emily Hanlin, executive director of food and nutrition services at Cobb County School District in Kennesaw, Ga., sends handwritten birthday cards to team members, which she says makes staff feel connected to the operation.

The foodservice director at Coppell Middle School in North Coppell, Texas, boosts morale by writing a personalized weekly message to staff, expressing gratitude for their work.

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