Crisis Drives Innovation-From Small Entrepreneur to Large Corporations

This article was written by Kristi Turner, CMO of Compeat 

There are silver linings during a crisis and one of them is innovation. I have always been passionate about out-of-the box ideas, creative thinking and agile businesses. I am seeing so many businesses reimagining their operations- here are two brilliant examples. From a small female-led software development company in Colorado, AppIt Ventures, to a large established corporate brand, Panera Bread, the restaurant industry is delivering.

I spoke to AppIt Ventures CEO, Amanda Moriuchi, last week to learn more about the new app, Curbside tool for restaurants. Amanda’s team developed it in a week to help one of their clients, Scalzotto Italian Restaurants, a single restaurant location in Broomfield, Colorado, adjust to curbside pick up during the COVID-19 crisis. What I love most about this story is the speed of developing a free app that helps smaller sized restaurants like food trucks and independent restaurants be able to switch to a Curbside operations model with no additional investment. When COVID-19 hit, Scalzotto husband wife owners, Tonia and Giancarlo Scalzotto, needed a way to switch as quickly as possible to curbside pick up but did not have the technology stack to do so quickly. They reached out to Amanda for ideas. As CEO and classic entrepreneur mindset, Amanda immediately gathered her developers and went in to solution mode. Within a week, AppIt Ventures had developed and launched a free app for restaurants that provided an easier way to take online orders, allow customers to review menu and operators to create updated menus, pay online and deliver curbside pick up. Restaurant operators simply go to Curbside to download, copy and past a snippet of code into their website. Innovation is not always about perfect or limited to companies with great resources behind them. Innovation, like the Curbside tool, is about speed to market, solving an obvious need for a particular target customer and simplicity in the delivery.

In contrast to the small entrepreneur, I am seeing brilliance from established corporate brands like Panera Bread who has approximately 220-unit restaurant locations. They have been showing agility and innovation since the first days of the COVID-19 crisis. They first launched Contactless Delivery and Mindful packaging during the first weeks. Now, as part of their next phase of COVID-19 response, Panera Bread has launched Panera Grocery. CEO Niren Chaudhary stated, in an effort to “provide better access to essential items that are increasingly harder to come by,” we are introducing Panera Grocery, alongside its standard offerings at participating stores nationwide.

What I find phenomenal about this innovation is this is something Panera Bread has never done before. This requires an enormous effort both from an operations and marketing perspective across a substantial number of locations nationwide. This innovation speaks to speed to market during a crisis and focusing in on a new challenge consumers are facing during COVID-19. Consumers need alternatives to grocery stores as supplies are limited and shelves are empty.

Innovation during crisis requires great leadership, out of the box thinking and bravery by the smallest of organizations to the largest of organizations. Well done Amanda Moriuchi and the AppIt Ventures team. Well done Niren Chaudhary and the Panera Bread team.

Let’s encourage innovation and share stories of great innovators delivering for us during crisis.

Read also:

Five Strategies to Smoothly Prepare Your Restaurant for Delivery and Take-Out

COVID-19 Relief is Emerging. Where to Turn for Help

Nine Business Strategies for Coping During the COVID-19 Crisis