by Roy Zou and Jenny Junkeer

Breakfast, lunch, dinner. For decades restaurants have been competing using this similar format. There is a sea of restaurants that use this format, who might even offer nearly exactly the same dishes. It’s a sea where every restaurant chases after the same market, so eroding the market share of competitors has become the norm. A sea where chefs develop such power and hold such control that it begins to look like a combination of Gordon Ramsay’s Michelin dotted line-up of restaurants and Jamie Oliver’s face on your next frying pan; they dominate the market. A sea where inventing the ‘next dish’ is the only innovation left for the most talented culinary minds of the world.

In comes our disruptor to the market, the ‘smartphones’ of the restaurant industry that took Melbourne by storm. A meal so beautiful that it was valued more on Instagram than in the stomach of the starving individual that ordered it. BRUNCH. Brunch showed the world that there was an ocean beyond the sea. An ocean where restaurants can compete in completely new ways and formats.

What is a Blue Ocean Strategy?

Blue Ocean Strategy is an alternative to traditional modes of competition. Creating a new and uncontested market space makes the competition irrelevant. Capturing new demand, as opposed to exploiting current markets, takes ‘beating rivals’ off the to-do list because there are none.

In blue oceans, demand is generated rather than fought over. There is ample opportunity for growth that is both profitable and rapid. Distinct examples can be seen through Ford’s Model T which introduced a whole new concept of owning a car; Cirque du Soleil’s idea of a new artistic circus; and finally, Apple’s smartphone integrating all previous electronic handheld devices.

How does it benefit small business owners?

It only takes one person to be innovative. Small businesses are much less invested in a certain industry as they do not have long vertically integrated supply chains preventing them from maneuvering into new spaces. A prominent example of this can be seen with corporate giant Kodak. Despite inventing the digital cameras, Kodak also created its own downfall due to over-investment in the razor-blade model of business: selling traditional cameras, film and printing services. At the end of the day, an innovative strategy requires one brain. If anything, more brains only hinder the ability to agree on a business model.

However, small business owners tend to overlook the potential they could have through playing in a brand new market, playing in a field where they are the only contender, a field where they are the leaders.

How do you acquire a Blue Ocean Strategy?

Blue Ocean Strategies can be developed by both incumbents and new entrants into the market, especially within the saturated restaurant market of Melbourne. The basis of the strategy relies on understanding what the clients enjoy within the current service, amplifying (adding value) the traits that clients enjoy and reducing (cutting cost) the services that are either not valued or unappreciated by clients.

This allows businesses to simultaneously become a cost-leader and a differentiator.

Is Brunch really the ‘smartphone’ of restaurants?

Brunch took advantage of the fact that Melbournians love their coffee and a good ‘brekky’ to start the day. It also leveraged the need for Melbournians to have ‘Instagram worthy’ meals. Furthermore, it removed the unwanted need for an unhealthy meal that many office workers end up having for lunch due to time constraints and the lack of viable alternatives. Combining the elements of Breakfast and Lunch into a brand new meal created a new ocean of both old and new customers for the healthy and photogenic creation known as brunch.

To a degree, this market has now grown to a point where having brunch has become a culture, a way of life, and a necessity for numerous ‘cultured individuals’ within Melbourne. Hence, much like the Model T did with cars and smartphones in the communication industry, brunch is definitely here to stay with long-term sustainable profits for the top performers within this new industry.

Where to for the restaurant industry from here?

Regardless if you are an incumbent or a new entrant into the restaurant industry, there are lessons from Brunch that everyone can learn.

1. Diners often come for the experience, not just the food

2. Diners enjoy a good brand name i.e. High Zomato or Instagram fame

3. As living standards increase, eating no longer becomes satisfying a basic necessity, it needs to be gourmet and artistic

4. Menu Flexibility – gluten-free, dairy-free, fat-free, organic, following Paleo guidelines, vegan options.

5. Healthy Options

It is difficult to state what the future of restaurant dining could look like, or if restaurants will even be in a shop, actually, even on the ground. However, we can conclude that it will be much more experience-focused and those who are not moving to this trend are likely to be slowly eliminated much like traditional breakfast and lunch servers in Melbourne currently.

From dinners in the sky to flavoured cookie dough and rolled ice cream – the future of experience is here. Food-lover evolution is here. Take the chance to be innovative and let change ignite your organisation.

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