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The product innovation process of quick‐service restaurant chains

Michael C. Ottenbacher (Heilbronn University, Heilbronn, Germany)
Robert J. Harrington (University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 10 July 2009




This paper aims to outline the innovation process activities described by quick‐service restaurant (QSR) managers and to compare it with an earlier QSR process model and with those used in other food service settings.


Six semi‐structured interviews with QSR chain executives in the USA were conducted to better understand the underlying factors and dimensions that describe successful innovation process practices.


For new QSR menu innovations, the development teams follow a structured approach to reduce the likelihood of failure due to issues such as poor consumer demand or implementation. QSR screen new food innovations approximately five times during the development process. Furthermore, today's QSR innovation process integrates more sophisticated market research technology and a post‐audit is carried out after the new food concept has been launched. In comparison with studies of Michelin‐starred chefs QSR development teams use an approach that is much more explicitly structured as a whole due to the larger scale roll‐out as well as greater cross‐functional and regional differences to consider in the QSR setting.

Research limitations/implications

The study was conducted in only one country and on a small sample. Based on an analysis of the findings, the innovation development process of QSR can be broken down into 13 main steps. Compared with earlier hospitality innovation studies, the process in this setting includes multiple screenings for high‐risk innovations, and greater emphasis on operational and training issues.


The study expands the scope of hospitality innovation research and the findings have important implications not only for QSR settings but also for other restaurant segments, and for other hospitality service endeavours.



Ottenbacher, M.C. and Harrington, R.J. (2009), "The product innovation process of quick‐service restaurant chains", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 21 No. 5, pp. 523-541.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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