Upscale dining and high-end fashion sales quickly take a sharp nosedive when society faces an event like COVID-19. For many, celebrating life’s most meaningful moments feel more significant at a fine-dining establishment, wearing a new pair of Gucci sneakers, but hunkering down and being satisfied with a hearty bowl of instant ramen while wearing a worn-in-pair of Converse becomes the safer bet during a global crisis.
Amid the chaos and epicenter of the outbreak, in my hometown of Seattle, Washington, there’s a well-known, family-owned, fine-dining restaurant that was eye-to-eye with a possible fate of shutting down only to reopen when the worst of the spreading outbreak was under control. Without knowing how long containment would take, they had to wrestle with how their employees would survive. This establishment is a Seattle icon and has an impeccable reputation for being loyal, supportive, and “like family” to its employees, so saying, “See ya! Good luck out there!” wasn’t an option.
When the pressure is on, leaders are born. Dr. John Kotter, Harvard Professor, and pioneer of change leadership development believe “changing conditions, and turbulence [are] actually full of opportunities.” This restaurant didn’t have time to take a “good hard look” at their options and slowly come to a right decision. They used Innovation, agility, and speed to keep their doors open, to keep their employees employed and their customers satisfied.
When people aren’t going to spend $400 on dinner, you have to change the way you work. Innovative leaders look at a potentially catastrophic problem not as a dead end, but as an opportunity. They think differently, creatively, and thoughtfully. Innovation takes into account other ideas, new thoughts, and it is ok for adjusting their own. Innovation looks into the dark and tries creative ways to make light.
How comfortable is a business with shifting? This fancy upscale restaurant has always been a fancy upscale restaurant. Still, when the big picture shifted, this fancy upscale restaurant used Innovation to say “let’s do something different” and responded within the parameters of the spreading disease with a drive-thru bagel stop for breakfast, drive-thru gourmet burger and salad menu for lunch, and a family meal for dinner picked up or delivered to your door. They sell out daily.
Quick implementation is the only way this plan works. Obviously, there was buy-in not only from the leaders of the company but also from the employees. They didn’t have time to think long and hard, it was time to act, and acting quickly paid off. They mapped out their strategy and then pulled the trigger. There was no time to lose. The old saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” applied here. Leadership was ready to meet the challenge and swiftly! Failure was not an option.
Word spread quickly about this innovative, agile, and speedy plan. Their evening family dinners for the whole week sold out in hours, and the long lines were a testament to the quality and Innovation of the breakfast and lunch offerings.
Canlis restaurant is a shining example of strong leadership, cunning Innovation, and nimble agility during times of extreme change. They understood that during chaos, opportunities arise, and it’s a matter of rolling up your sleeves and getting busy discovering them—their employees and our stomachs thank them for their contribution to this strange time.
CHANGE ISN’T EASY, BUT, JUST BECAUSE IT’S HARD, DOESN’T MEAN IT HAS TO BE SCARY. TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW YOUR ORGANIZATION CAN ADAPT TO BETTER DEAL WITH CHANGE, CONTACT ME TODAY!