I've just returned from a week-long vacation to California, and I'm still feeling the joy (and guilt) from satisfying my ultimate indulgence: In-N-Out Burger. Since I’m an East Coaster without frequent access to their locations, my trip would not have been complete without going at least once. I have another confession: I ate there three times in ten days. I may have overdone it, but my love of the brand is predictable. In-N-Out Burger is the one chain Millennials will return to time and time again—we just can’t seem to get enough of it. This is not new nor surprising news. As a Millennial myself, I am enamored by the restaurant, which offers a simple four item menu, fast service, and garden-fresh ingredients.A report by Technomic states, “In-N-Out Burger is the chain most likely to be revisited. Millennials place greater emphasis on the concept's brand image, agreeing more strongly than other generations that In-N-Out Burger supports local community activities, offers new and exciting products and is an innovative brand.” To me, the most interesting finding is that In-N-Out’s brand is seen as innovative. This begs the question: how can they be innovative if they only offer four items? Devout fans may point to the success of their “not-so-secret menu,” which is listed only on their website and boasts creative burger combinations, as a reason. However, I’d like to think In-N-Out serves as a gentle reminder: innovation doesn't always mean complexity. Although customers may continue to eat up crazier menu choices, the actual menu at each location remains clear and unchanging: burgers, french fries, shakes, and beverages.
Although it's impossible to avoid complexity at all phases, the root of innovation or product development should remain simple. When beginning to think about innovation—perhaps a new product or new process to improve your business—let this be a helpful reminder to have a focused core set of objectives in mind. Using In-N-Out’s magic number four, take a step back and ask yourself: What are the (up to) four innovation objectives that I need to guarantee success? Your success will be defined by multiple outcomes, from stakeholder support to the ultimate goal of application or use. However, keeping clear and consistent objectives will ground your innovation through execution and management. The end result of these objectives may be unknown, but who knows?—you may find yourself concocting your own “not-so-secret menu” of innovative ideas.
Hilary O’Haire is Senior Associate at CMB. If you find yourself at In-N-Out Burger in the near future, she recommends not-so-secretly ordering your meal ‘Protein Style.’
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