They say that necessity is the mother of invention, but I think that’s partially true for innovation, too. Nobody needs me to tell them that the pandemic has been hard on our economy—especially not business owners. However, there are lessons that businesses have had to learn during the pandemic that are prudent to remember for the future. Here are three examples of business innovation principles that different industries applied during the pandemic that contributed to their success.
1. Stick to Your Values: Canlis Fine-Dining Restaurant
Canlis is a family-owned, fine-dining restaurant in the heart of Seattle. The first reported case of the Coronavirus was from Washington State and, in consequence, Canlis closed quickly. Brothers Mark and Brian Canlis quickly realized that there was not much need for a fine-dining restaurant in a pandemic. So, they revisited their mission: to inspire people to turn to one another. They realized that their brand wasn’t so much about what they were doing, but rather why they were doing it.
In a year’s time, they guided their restaurant through several costume changes. They morphed into a burger stand, a bagel shed, a drive-in movie theater, a crab shack, and a sustainable produce delivery service. One of their most ambitious (and successful) ventures was Canlis Community College. This is an educational platform that offers virtual classes on food, wine, fitness, life skills, history, and more for free to the general public. Their business is a testament to the fact that businesses truly can bring the unity and creativity of the Kingdom to earth!
2. Accommodate Changing Needs: The Grocery Industry
Customers are always changing, so it’s important to keep a keen eye on your audience base. In order to accommodate cautious shoppers, grocery stores stepped up to the plate. As of August of 2019, 81% of consumers had never bought groceries online. However, by May of 2020, nearly 79% of shoppers had ordered online. In August of 2019, U.S. online grocery sales totaled $1.2 billion, but by June of 2020, that total was $7.2 billion.
In addition, online ordering allows for a more personalized shopping experience. Targeted ads and artificial intelligence technology make it possible for someone who puts a bag of coffee into their virtual cart to see a timely advertisement suggesting they buy creamer as well.
Other major changes were made to the physical nature of grocery stores as well. Entire sections of parking lots were converted to curbside pick up, specific hours were set aside for at-risk shoppers, and more employees were designated to shop for customers and/or deliver their products.
3. Love Your Community: The Church
The husband of the executive assistant at my Denver office, Gabriella, works as the youth pastor for a church in the city. They are heavily involved in their church and just had their first in-person service since March last weekend! Our first instinct may not be to think of the church as a business. However, most of them have to bring in a profit to function in the same way a restaurant or grocery store would.
At the start of the pandemic, Gabriella’s church pre-recorded their services on a livestream. The leadership quickly realized that people were treating the services like a podcast. They did not bring people together or initiate much depth. They quickly pivoted to Zoom services where they could use the small group feature to garner more participation. Then, when things let down a little more, people who were comfortable could meet in host homes, eat brunch, and watch the Zoom services.
Some churches opted for pre-packaged communion and some abstained entirely. For a while, most churches either allowed people to gather in person with a reservation, or they did not open at all. Some congregations wear masks, and some do not. Every decision church leaders made affected their congregations. All of the leaders I spoke to did not take those decisions lightly. In conclusion, churches taught us that we need to consider even the smallest decisions with prayer. Our motivation should be to act in ways that will make our communities feel loved.
How have you experienced business innovation throughout the pandemic? We’d love to hear your stories of ingenuity and success. Please comment below!