Amid the global financial crisis, with the world’s largest banks reporting losses in the billions of dollars, Duane Clark, a 24-year veteran of the commercial banking industry, did something he never expected to do: He opened a smoothie shop.
“I always swore I would never go into the restaurant business,” Clark says. “I always called it the beast. You live it, you drink it, you eat it—that’s your life.”
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.
In the May 2010 issue of QSR, Yum Brands CEO and chairman David Novak was selected as one of the quick-serve industry’s Top 10 Most Innovative People. Novak has been at the helm of one of the world’s largest quick-service companies for the last six years and has made broad changes at the company.
He looks more like a tenured professor than a zealous consumer advocate. He is soft spoken with round wire glasses and a navy sports coat, a warm smile and gray curly hair. He is Michael Jacobson, executive director and co-founder of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and at first glance it looks like he’s more likely to serve up a warm cup of tea than a lawsuit.
It usually takes a trade show or the threat of legislation to bring quick-service competitors together, but occasionally the industry puts business aside and rallies around a single cause. In the wake of the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, brands flocked to the Gulf Coast to offer assistance. More than four years later, they again seem to have found a common charitable pursuit.