La importancia de la Innovacion. Nuestro reciente estudio de la Innovacion en los Restaurantes de mayor nivel en la Comunidad Valenciana The importance of innovation. Our recent research of innovation in Haute Cuisine Restaurants in Valencia….

La innovacion es un arma estrategica.  Es una herramienta fundamental para que las empresas se posicionen en la Cadena de Valor.

Innovation is a strategic tool. It is  essential for companies to position themselves in the value chain. We include below the conclusions of our recent research to be published in the  “Journal of Culinary Science and Technology”.

Esto es aplicable tambien a los servicios. Proximamente se va a publicar en el “Journal of Culinary Science and Technology” un estduio que hemos realizado en la Comunidad Valenciana para analizar la Innovacion en el colectivo de restaurantes de alto nivel. Este estudio se ha realizado en UPV por parte del DOE y el equipo CUINA (lideres en Ciencia Culinaria, inventores de la Gastrovac).  Incluimos las conclusiones en inglés del mismo. Para situar esta comunidad el lector debe tener en cuenta que la facturacion media por empleado de un restaurantr en el Pais vasco es de 55.000€ mientras que en Valencia es de 37.000€. Este es un ejemplo donde la Universidad (Cuina)  colabora muy positivamente con la industria.

Recomendamos ver este ejemplo reciente (See this clip as a good example of collaboration University/Chefs):


…….When considering the research limitations, it must be emphasized that the Valencia region where we carried out the field study doesn´t stand out for its gastronomic quality or culture. It has only 13 Michelin starred restaurants (with 1 and 2 stars) while the Basque region has 15 (with 1, 2 and 3 stars), Madrid has 12 (with 1 and 2 stars) and Catalunya has 47 (with 1, 2 and 3 stars). Therefore this fact must be taken into account when comparing the field results.

In principle, and taking into account that the innovative elements include not only the Michelin starred chefs but other cuisine chefs, it appears that Haute Cuisine innovative chefs perform as innovation leaders and set tendencies. Innovation is associated more with avant garde cuisine rather than with traditional cooking although some traditional cooks carry out innovations based in raw ingredients and terroir products. Their main marketing tool is the creation of a strong brand image (Quique Dacosta, Breton, etc…). In our case these chefs tend to follow the profile set by some authors (Gomez and Bouty, 2009).

The chef’s profile as innovation leaders which we can draw from the survey results coincides with that proposed by Gomez et al (2003). It is a mixture of personal disposition skills and knowledge acquired through training and practice as well as knowledge acquired through thinking about practice though in our case it is collective. In general, it could be pointed out that, the same as haute-couture affects the fashion industry, –Haute cuisine plays a key role in trend setting, image building, and in establishing quality standards for culinary services as a whole as pointed out by Surlemont and Johnson (2005).

Though innovation is assimilated to artistry and creativity a minority of chefs are inspired in their innovative ideas by science and scientists who suggests innovative fragrances, mixtures, textures, etc. and who solve problems posed by chefs in their search of new dishes or combinations. Process innovation and the acquisition of new equipment based in state of art technology facilitate product technology and that is the reason for innovative chefs to carry out simultaneously the three alternate kinds of innovations: product (including dish design), process and service. The last alternative includes on line services, new dish formats and menus and the table organizations. This conclusion confirms that already mentioned by authors such as Gomez and Bouty (2009).

The locus of creativity for our chefs is usually their customary kitchen room. Only a minority carries out their innovative sessions in special kitchen or cooking lab. Our research shows chefs who innovate more in teams and have a higher innovative leading profile. As mentioned above, this difference with multi starred Michelin chefs (Gomez and Bouty, 2009; Svejenova et al, 2007) may be due to the fact that the 8 Michelin chefs in our survey possess only one or two stars and this fact may denote a significant difference.

The chefs seem to be inspired by their own team, by competitors and fairs or Cuisine exhibitions and seldom by their customer’s suggestions. Their cooperation with institutions such as university labs is relevant and growing. This cooperation is outstanding when comparing it with other firms from services or industry and marks a difference as well as what literature points out (Gomez and Bouty, 2009; Svejenova et al, 2007).

The chef’s leadership, innovative culture and motivation are the main drivers for culinary innovation and one of the main motivations is the chef’s search for differentiation from its competitors. This finding is relevant and contributes to fill a research gap complementing existing literature (Harrington, 2004; Svejenova et al, 2007).

In general, it seems that innovative chefs consider innovation a strategic tool and tend to formalize its management and document their innovation outcomes This conclusion coincides with the findings of Ottenbacher and Harrington (2007, 2007b). Innovative chefs are sceptic in relation to their perception of the economic impact of their innovative activity. The financing of their innovation is based in their own means. Precisely this lack of access to financing is considered one of the main barriers to innovation as well as the risk and costs associated. Some mentioned also the lack of receptivity of customers to innovative ideas.

Basic culinary knowledge and Knowledge of raw materials and ingredients are considered critical competences required for innovation.

The effects of innovation could be summarized in augmenting culinary offer and improving food quality. Side effects were improving food preparation and kitchen efficiency as well as table service quality. However, the increase of the number of customers didn´t seem to be a relevant effect. It is interesting to note that innovation carries out service improvements and certain formalization of routines which improve the culinary process efficiency and productivity as well as a closer compliance with food preparation norms. Increasing the clientele seems to be just a side effect (see table 10).

The results of this research can help us to draw some relevant managerial applications. In first place we should consider innovation strategically. Innovation can be a differentiation tool which helps us to design our brand and focus our market segment. Innovation must be managed in order to produce successful outcomes. A minimum of formalization is required to be able to reproduce processes and assure quality. Innovation outcomes must be registered with technical notes, detailed recipes or photographs. Cooperation with external scientists and researchers will support our innovation processes and solve our creative ideas and as mentioned this cooperation will strength the formal management of innovation. Innovation requires its own space and time. It will be more efficiently managed if specific time is dedicated to innovation and it takes place in a dedicated space where invention and creativity flows more easily far away from the daily hotplate work pressure. Finally, the critical role of training and education in culinary skills must be stressed. Innovation requires culinary education to be successful and it cannot be substituted by intuition.