Culinary Experience Design in Open Innovation Ecosystems: Chez Panisse Case

The restaurant business is highly competitive with an average survival time for new restaurants being only 2.5 years. High-end restaurants, in particular, try to stay ahead of the competition by practicing a form of continuous innovation. Situated on the continuum of products and services, we show that the culinary innovation process in high-end restaurants has many of the characteristics of the generic New Product Development (NPD) process. We present an emergent NPD process that considers the nature of service-oriented food design that uses tacit knowledge of experts in the culinary design supply chain.

This research used an in-depth case study of the California Cuisine movement that emerged from Chez Panisse, the world-renown restaurant formed by Alice Waters. The case evaluates its business journey, and how it sparked and sustained a food movement by creating a surrounding ecosystem for over 43 years.  We found that the Chez Panisse restaurant has been highly successful and sustainable because of its unique business and social relationships. Open innovation and co-design of products and services enabled the group to create a tight value network among restaurants, suppliers, and the alumni chefs, substantially expanding the ecosystem over the last 43 years.

We performed a single case study by incorporating in-depth interviews, participatory observations, as well as a thorough analysis of publically available data.  The interviews were conducted with 34 people: current employees at the Chez Panisse restaurant, its alumni spin-offs, farmers, suppliers, wine sellers, long-time customers, food writers, and food educators.  In addition, we identified the career trajectories of 77 Chez Panisse alumni and 489 spin-offs started by alumni.

Future research will investigate the parallels between the California Cuisine case to open innovation in the emerging ecosystem associated with New Nordic Cuisine.

Chez Panisse Open Innovation Ecological System


Related Publications

  1. Chesbrough, H. (2003). The Era of Open Innovation. Sloan Management Review, 44, 3, 35-41.
  2. Chesbrough, H., Kim, S. and Agogino, A. M. (Forthcoming, 2014). Chez Panisse: Building an Open Innovation Ecosystem.  Berkeley-Haas Case Series.
  3. Kim, S.(2013). Open Innovation Ecosystem: Chez Panisse Case Study.  Thesis (Ph.D.) University of California at Berkeley.