Ferran Adrià, as a co-owner of elBulli, strongly held the belief that creativity comes before the customer and exhibited that during the company’s peak performance years (HBR, 2009). His creativity in the restaurant industry resulted in one of a kind dining experiences for patrons (HBR, 2009). Adrià came to the realization that his former practice of copying recipes throughout his career was not conducive to his yearning to create (HBR, 2009). Jacques Maximim stated in a lecture attended by Adrià that “to create is not to copy” (HBR, 2009). Adrià desired to develop a new style of cooking that would provoke the senses along with the sense of disbelief (HBR, 2009).
His creativity translated into success for elBulli by offering a new cuisine which happened to make it a sensation for guests (HBR, 2009). By design, Adrià’s team created dishes that offered a “roller-coaster ride of textures and flavors” as stated by one satisfied customer (HBR, 2009). Meticulously, Adrià planned a full set of new recipes each year and discarded prior ones which would never be used again (HBR, 2009) He assembled a development team for the creation of new recipes (HBR, 2009). It wasAdrià’s strategy to have all prepared dishes served in a sequence to the customers like a movie (HBR, 2009).
“Montage is sometimes hard to explain. The rules are all relative, and I focus on breaking them” was his choice of words (HBR, 2009). Adrià not only utilized his creative energy in deciding what to serve, but he also focused his attention on how dishes were consumed (HBR, 2009). Consequently, entrees were served to diners with instructions prior to consumption (HBR, 2009). In addition,Adrià used a deconstruction method to reduce dishes to their basic components and later recombining and modifying them in appetizing ways (HBR, 2009). Creativity was undoubtedly of vital importance at elBulli.
In the interest of innovation, putting the customer ahead of creativity will not result in the best formula for success. The customer was considered secondary to creativity according to the vision of Ferran Adrià (HBR, 2009). Adrià felt that elBulli had the best team in the world and that nothing else was needed to do what made sense (HBR, 2009). Therefore, he really didn’t care to hear any feedback from customers (HBR, 2009).
He stated, “I don’t give a damn whether people like what we do or not” (HBR, 2009). In his mind, the delectable works of art created by the elBulli dining team were simply masterpieces that could be shared with restaurant goers (HBR, 2009). Adrià succeeded in the realm of process innovation by creating dishes that no one else could and that his establishment exclusively made for only a single business season (Tidd, 2014). In doing so, he helped the restaurant secure a competitive advantage in the industry.
Adrià intuitively resisted status quo in the industry by upholding the idea that his business was not a service operation and by focusing on creating dishes that would move beyond sensory to emotional (HBR, 2009). He described elBulli and its customer base “a venue to explore the boundaries of cuisine, and it would be boring not to share our findings with guests” (HBR, 2009). As a result, he carved out a niche for elBulli that was a remarkable accomplishment and that yielded a competitive edge for the company.