Innovation In the Pizza Business

A couple years ago, my family and I were vacationing in northern Michigan.  After spending a morning at a beach along Lake Huron, we decided to try a local pizza restaurant for lunch.  The restaurant was a typical pizza place offering both carry-out pizza and dining in their restaurant.  We found a table and ordered our lunch.  At that time, our two young daughters were accustomed to getting some crayons and a coloring sheet at restaurants to keep them busy.

After ordering, we asked the waitress if she had any crayons and paper for our kids to color while waiting for our pizza.  She told us that she did not have crayons, but would bring us something else for the kids to play with.  There were no other kids in the restaurant, so we didn’t know what kind of “toy” she might bring.  The toy was uncooked pizza dough.  Each of our daughters got a small plate with some pizza dough and flour (to keep the pizza dough from sticking to the plate) to play with.

Our kids loved playing with the pizza dough and made all kinds of things: a snowman, a leaf, a smiley face, rings for their fingers, and more.  For several days after visiting that restaurant our daughters told us frequently how much they liked that restaurant.  They didn’t necessarily like the restaurant because of the pizza (although the pizza was good), it was the pizza dough they got to play with.  You can be sure our kids will want to go back to that restaurant when we are vacationing in that area again.

Here’s the innovation lesson.  Someone had the bright idea of giving kids a unique “toy” to play with in the restaurant.  Yes, crayons and paper are great, but you find that at almost any restaurant.  By giving the kids an alternative toy that lets them use their creativity, the restaurant is setting itself apart from its competitors.  Both the kids and the parents will remember this unique toy and will likely think of the restaurant when they want pizza again.

What kind of simple changes like this can you make to boost your own business?  What are some of the “me too” things that you could change to distinguish your business and create a competitive edge?

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