作者：一只西柚 2018-01-22 14:11
The restaurant industry is notorious for being competitive, risky, and low-margin. This is no less true for the world’s most acclaimed high-end restaurants. Despite being able to charge hundreds of dollars for a meal and being fully booked months in advance, top restaurants often still have a hard time turning a profit. And they face an even greater challenge: maintaining flawless consistency, while simultaneously being innovative and cutting-edge.
While cooking is seen as creative, high-end cooking is mainly about constant, rigorous repetition, in a highly controlled and hierarchical environment. To receive three Michelin stars – the highest rating given by the prestigious Michelin Guide – restaurants must deliver a consistently flawless experience over many visits. This means achieving precise standardization and strong quality control.
For example, at The Fat Duck in the UK (which has had three Michelin stars since 2004, except in 2016 when it closed for refurbishment, and where I worked on the innovation side), cooking temperatures are systematically controlled to 0.1°C, and most recipes are specified with up to 40 steps for a single component on a plate. Each cook is highly trained and selectively recruited, yet he or she will only be tasked with producing a few components, and will practice hundreds of times under direct supervision before achieving the necessary level of craftsmanship. The preparations, produced by small teams or individual cooks, are progressively assembled, with sous-chefs (akin to middle managers) controlling the quality at every step. Before the final dishes are served, the head chef personally tastes a sample from each batch, maintaining control over every single aspect.
例如, 在英国肥鸭餐厅（Fat Duck）(自2004年以来被评为米其林三星级餐厅，2016年因关闭整修未获三星级称号，我负责此餐厅的创新工作),烹饪温度系统单位控制到0.1°C,每道菜的一道工序就需要40多个步骤，每一位厨师都经过了高度的训练，选拔标准严苛，每位厨师只负责部分工序，在达到必要的工艺水平之前，将会在直接监督下进行数百次的训练。由小团队或个人厨师所做的准备工作，会逐步进行，由高级厨师(类似于中层管理人员)来控制每一步的质量。在最后的菜肴端上来之前，主厨亲自品尝每一批的样品，保持严格控制每一道菜的每一个程序。
However, this kind of rigorous repetition would seem to stymie innovation – by limiting opportunities to learn from mistakes or to search for new ideas – and innovation is another critical dimension for success in the high-end restaurant world. For instance, it’s a main consideration for the similarly influential 50 Best Restaurants of the World list.
Of course, consistency and creativity aren’t mutually exclusive. A handful of extraordinary restaurants have managed to deliver both the flawless standards of three Michelin stars and the innovation demanded by the 50 Best list – and they’ve managed to leverage this acclaim to achieve growth. In my work studying and consulting with innovative companies, I’ve found that this balance is best achieved through dedicated time and space for research and experimentation, as well as a thorough process for both iterating on and standardizing new inventions.
Let’s consider an example. The first restaurant to achieve both lists was El Bulli in Spain. With only one Michelin star in 1987, the restaurant decided to try something new. Since the business was particularly slow during the winter, its owners, Ferran Adrian and Juli Soler, decided to close shop 2-5 months a year to travel and search for new dish ideas. In 1990 they gained a second Michelin Star, and in 1994, they became the first high-end restaurant to invest in a development team and a lab.
举个例子。第一家登上这两个榜单的餐厅是西班牙的El Bulli。1987年，这家餐厅只有一颗米其林之星，于是决定尝试一些新的东西。由于在冬季生意特别清淡，其所有者Ferran Adrian和Juli Soler决定每年关闭2-5个月的店铺，以寻找新的菜式。1990年，他们获得了第二颗米其林星，1994年，他们成为第一家投资开发团队和实验室的高端餐厅。
Akin to an R&D facility for a large restaurant chain or fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brand, their lab hosted a small team of chefs, and occasionally other professionals, such as food scientists, designers, or engineers, in a mixed kitchen and office space. Unlike test kitchens of large chains or FMCG products, the team would work in R&D during the winter and then resume restaurant operations during the summer. And instead of concentrating on cost reduction, shelf life, or replicability, they would focus on the creative process and the customer’s experience.
Three years later, El Bulli rose to three Michelin Stars, and when the first edition of the 50 Best guide was released in 2002, they earned the top spot, positioning Spain as one of the main gastronomic destinations in the world. The company grew through consulting for other companies, opening new business lines (e.g. books and cooking gadgets), developing brand partnerships, and opening more restaurants. Though the main restaurant closed in 2011, they subsequently reopened it as the ElBulli Foundation, while the other restaurants and business lines are still operating today.
三年后，El Bulli成为米其林三星餐厅，50佳指南 (the 50 Best guide)第一期在2002年发布时，他们赢得了榜首，西班牙成为世界上主要的美食目的地之一。该公司通过为其他公司提供咨询、开设新的业务线(例如书籍和烹饪小工具)、发展品牌伙伴关系、开设更多的餐馆而不断发展。这家餐厅于2011年关闭，随后又重新开业，成为ElBulli基金，其餐馆和商业公司仍在运营。
Other restaurants, like the Fat Duck and El Celler de Can Roca in Spain, also set up fully fledged test kitchens before attaining the top ranking in both guides. Like at El Bulli, the chefs working in these labs divide their time between the restaurant operation and R&D projects aimed at improving the customer experience. The projects range from developing new techniques and ingredients to designing final dishes and products. Some labs even partnered with universities to carry out research projects and explore subjects as varied as sensory perception, sustainability, narrative theory, and nostalgia.
其他的餐厅，比如Fat Duck和西班牙的El Celler de Can Roca餐厅，也设立了成熟的测试厨房，之后成功登上了两项榜单。就像在El Bulli餐厅一样，在这些实验室工作的厨师们周旋于餐厅运营和研发项目，以改善客户体验。这些项目包括开发新技术、配料以及设计最终的菜品和产品等等。一些实验室甚至与大学合作开展研究项目，探索各种各样的学科，如感官知觉、可持续性、叙事理论和怀旧心理。
Although these efforts were expensive, the labs provided the capacity for numerous projects that generated revenue, and helped attract a wide community of collaborators that led to numerous innovations.
But while a dedicated lab expands a restaurant’s capacity for R&D, innovation more importantly has to be embedded in the DNA of the organization. High-end restaurants that cannot afford a team and space solely devoted to R&D still make innovation a key value alongside consistency. At The Fat Duck, a conceptual dish is developed each month by one of the restaurant cooks for the whole team to taste, while Italian restaurant Osteria Francescana (ranked #1 in the 50 Best in 2016 and with 3 Michelin Stars since 2012) holds frequent brainstorms and feedback sessions with the head chef and general kitchen staff. This collective culture of creativity multiplies the pool of ideas and softens resistance to new products and processes being adopted.
Let’s look at how the Fat Duck Group (their parent company) does this. First, the company’s leadership agrees on the core concept for each of its business units (the restaurants and other commercial lines). Then a team – generally composed of the CEO, the company’s head chef, the head of R&D, and the head of the unit – generates a series of loose ideas that could become products or features of each customer experience. These ideas are then divided and assigned to the R&D team, the restaurant chefs for prototyping and testing, and in the case of consumer electronics (cooking gadgets), jointly to the business partner’s R&D and the internal R&D.
让我们来看看Fat Duck集团(Fat Duck母公司)是如何做到这一点的。首先，该公司的领导层赞成其每一个业务单元(餐厅和其他商业线路)的核心概念。然后，一个团队——通常由首席执行官、公司的总厨师长、研发主管和部门负责人组成——提出一系列零散想法，这些想法可能成为每个客户体验的产品或特征。之后，这些想法被分配给研发团队和餐厅厨师进行原型设计和测试，如果需要使用或者研发消费类电子产品(烹饪小器具)，该团队将会与商业伙伴的研发机构以及公司内部研发机构合作。
All the projects follow a specific development process, alternating between collective ideation or feedback and focused work by a small team. For restaurant dishes, the development team will quickly prototype and iterate through numerous versions of the dish and its components, either in the lab or if a lab is not available, in the main kitchen during slow hours.
Once the results start to approach a finished product, the team will seek input from senior and junior chefs, as well as sommeliers, waiters, and other staff. After a few cycles of improvement, the project team will hand the recipes to the line cooks to prepare. At this stage, the objective is not to hand down a finished recipe and test the line cook capacity to produce it. Rather, the goal is to test the recipe’s written instructions. Both the line cook and the development team taste the result and, when problems are spotted, work together to improve the recipe until the results are reliable, consistent, and delicious.
The head chef oversees each project from the early stages, and decides when to serve a first taste to regular customers for further feedback. This process reduces cultural clashes between departments, improves the quality of outputs, and bridges the gap between a raw idea and consistently producing a finished product at scale.
The most highly acclaimed restaurants imbed creativity and learning across the organization by creating spaces and processes for both collective input and focused development. They show that a culture of precision and attention to detail can co-exist with constant re-invention, and by leveraging this core competence to achieve prestigious rankings, partnerships, and associated businesses, generate growth.