CHEFS President Tim Littleton said the company is driven, at least partially, by innovation when it comes to creating products for CHEFS. But, innovation in a vacuum benefits no one. That’s why the company is also committed to building a community through their products.
“We listen to our community,” said Daniel Keating, CHEFS Product Development Director. “We read their reviews of our products and react to what they like and don’t like about our products—and about others’ products. Then we take that information to make improvements.”
One example is the CHEFS Kitchen Tool Crock, Littleton said. “Our products are getting great reviews,” he said. “For instance, our tool crock has more than 100 reviews already. People are crazy about it. Why? Because we believe it’s a better solution.”
Keating agreed. “The reviews make us more accountable to the product,” he said. “This means we put more effort into the testing, into verifying the quality (of the manufacturers). Who wants to receive criticism for what they’ve developed?
“We can make the exact same thing (as a competitor), or we can make it better. Why wouldn’t we want to make it better?”
One product that came about based on customer input is the CHEFS Granny Fork.
“Do you know what a granny fork is?” Littleton asked. “I didn’t. But Jennifer (the CHEFS employee who manages the Colorado Springs Retail Outlet) kept hearing customers ask for one.
“So, we did a little research, took a chance, and developed one. Our community loves it. I still don’t know why it’s called a granny fork. Other than that it was probably used by a granny at some point.”
The story illustrates another important principle for the company: Innovation is everyone’s responsibility. The end decisions lie with the product development team, but Keating and Littleton are accessible and open to suggestions from the company’s community, which includes employees.
“Our employees are all foodies,” Littleton said. “They all have an interest in food, in cooking, and are comfortable in a kitchen. Many times this has been a huge benefit for us.”
“Our customers also ask pertinent questions,” Keating said. “They force us—in a good way—to think more about product and make sure we cover all the bases.”
Tomorrow: Controlling the manufacturing process benefits everyone.
CHEFS’ textile products anticipate shrinking in the wash. They’re larger than others’ are, so that if they shrink, they’re still a usable size. Plus, they’re all made in the same location—so a red apron will match red towels which match the red oven mitts (or denim or graphite).
CHEFS Ultimate Cross Strap Apron: The ultimate adjustable apron with cross-strap comfort, enhanced functions, and durability for the home and restaurant chef. An interior pocket holds cell phone or reading glasses, while an open belt above the pocket is available to hang towels or tongs.
“The decision to design our own apron was not taken lightly. Through prototypes, testing, and customer feedback to achieve the end result, we hope you'll agree this is the ultimate in aprons.”
CHEFS Multitasking Kitchen Towels: Superior quality kitchen towels in high-density weaves and coordinating patterns are absorbent and decorative multitaskers. Thick, absorbent tightly-woven cotton cleans up spills, keeps appliances spotless, and dries glassware and cookware.
“A coordinating, yet differentiated, set of towels was top of mind during development, while ensuring a choice for every need from drying hands to stemware and teakettles.”
CHEFS Oven Mitts, Set of 2: Extra-long, thick and quilted oven mitts for ultimate hand and forearm protection. Innovatively designed with snap loop to easily attach to belt loops, apron strap, or barbecue grill shelf.
“As someone who has burnt his forearms too many times, an extended length mitt was a priority. The form fitting feel assists in grip and the hanging tab is a means to keep them 'handy.'”
CHEFS Flour Sack Dish Towels, Set of 6: Dry glassware and china lint-free with white flour sack dish towels. Can also be used to cover bread dough or rolls to promote even rising.
“Such a versatile towel--we worked hard on these to ensure the weave was clean and it was oversized in scale. We even tested the straining of soup and stock while on location in India. A must have for every kitchen.”