McDonald's

The 10 Most Innovative People

Never before has innovation been as essential to running a successful quick-serve restaurant concept.

During what has turned out to be the most daunting recession in our nation’s history, innovation has been the driving force for the concepts that are beating the odds.

Often, the inspiration for innovation comes from the top, and that certainly holds true for the following leaders, who were selected from a wide-ranging list of successful operators.

Don’t Be Short Sighted

Promotional strategies are the lifeblood of any retail business—quick serves are no exception. Promotions create news that attracts consumer attention, and that attention usually drives sales and traffic. But promotions also shape brand perceptions, and those perceptions are equally important.

One on One with Jim Skinner

Since taking over the burger giant, which now has 32,000 restaurants worldwide, CEO Jim Skinner has restructured McDonald’s, redesigned the restaurants, and revolutionized the menu. Aside from the addition of premium coffee offerings, McDonald’s menu also features healthier choices such as Fruit & Walnut Salads and Chicken Wraps. Skinner also earns high marks for offering better value and improved marketing.

His winning strategy, christened the Plan to Win, focused all team members’ attention on improving service, food, and ambience and not necessarily on opening new stores.

The Renovation Rush

Four years ago, the winds of change moved Scott Gittrich, an experience that the Toppers Pizza CEO is appreciative for these days as his Wisconsin-based pizza chain pushes into a new decade with promise and purpose.

While working with an advertising agency, Gittrich and his Toppers leadership team noted their success with teens and twentysomethings, a revelation that sparked a multiyear plan to renovate existing restaurants and build new outlets with a more casual, youthful edge.

The Power of Free

On February 2, 2008, Auntie Anne’s hosted Free Pretzel Day at all of its U.S. outlets. For a six-hour window, consumers could enter any Auntie Anne’s location and receive a free pretzel. The promotion had some in the quick-service industry wondering what possible benefit could come from Auntie Anne’s giving away the brand’s signature item—one that many readily purchase—for free.

For those inquisitive souls, Auntie Anne’s was armed with answers.

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