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Thirty great ideas: Final installment in a five-part series

By  Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products

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 final installment of our 30 Great Ideas. Get the March issue of Fare for the complete collection.

Click here to download the complete article.

25. Simplicity Sells
We talk a lot about the veto vote: How do you please every person in the family or group of friends to ensure they choose your establishment over another? There’s certainly logic behind a broad menu, but are you creating a destination? That’s what some brands are doing by focusing on a singular food and doing it really, really well. The granddaddy of simple concepts may be In-N-Out Burger, where the menu is five items long and the cult following immeasurable (though the “Secret Menu” adds extra exclusivity). Five Guys is following suit, as are many local, chef-driven concepts. If you can do one thing exceptionally well, then the veto vote is staying home.

26. Smart Produce Packaging
Gas-flushed, breathable packaging has been used in the supermarket industry for years as a way to optimize ripeness and shelf life. It’s finally come to the foodservice/convenience side with Chiquita’s To Go bananas. The packaging allows for up to seven extra days of shelf life compared with unpackaged bananas. It offers retail and restaurants the opportunity to build sales on whole produce and get in the better-for-you game without as much food waste. And when you think about the potential for this product in the country’s underserved food deserts--where opportunities certainly exist, but demand is still small--the technology is even more compelling.

27. Grilled Cheese Fix
The idea combines the universal love of grilled cheese with the desire to customize. At Melted at Northern Michigan University, students can build their own grilled cheese from nine types of cheese, five types of bread and toppings from ham, bacon and mustard to sauerkraut and giardiniera. Grilled Cheese 100 gets you a basic cheese-and-bread sandwich; Grilled Cheese 200 allows one topping; 300 gets you two, and the 400 level are “graduate creations” such as The Flying Dutchman with smoked Gouda, ham and roasted apples.

28. Adventures in Eating
Want to experiment with ethnic twists on classic foods? Your best bet, according to Olson Communications, is a Nuevo Latino Burger: char-grilled, coarse-ground skirt steak with caramelized onions, pineapple and roasted red pepper mojo served on a cornmeal-sourdough bun.

The riff was the most popular burger in a survey of 200 consumers who tested and judged 15 menu concepts that used Asian, Latin and Mediterranean inspiration. The top-ranked salad had a Mediterranean theme with romaine, cucumber, mint and green onion tossed with faro, feta and a cumin and lemon yogurt dressing. Interestingly, participants favored ice-cream concepts with Asian and Latin flavors more than their favorite American flavors.

29. Restaurant-Retail Hybrids
As channel lines blur, a new segment of restaurant-retail hybrids is making shopping and eating more convenient--even fun. Grocers such as Whole Foods and Byerly’s have created food halls in their stores with counter-service concepts based on ethnic foods and menu themes.

The Whole Foods flagship in Chicago has a bar within the seafood department for a quick chowder and Chardonnay. High-end Eataly New York is an Italian-food emporium with 50,000 square feet of restaurants interspersed among the groceries.

And many cities are creating destinations out of their markets, including Milwaukee’s Public Market; Columbus, Ohio’s North Market; and the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis.

30. Stealth Health
Health-related laws and mandates aren’t slowing, and it may be in your best interest to get out in front of nutrition trends. During a survey at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, more than 73% of students said they want more healthy choices. The school is already making its food more healthful behind the scenes--less sodium, more produce and whole grains--withou tbeing promoted as such.

“Our student customers are demanding healthy food now, and they will become the customers of the restaurant stomorrow,” says Ken Toong, executive director of auxiliary enterprises. “What are we as operators waiting for?”

By Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products
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