Doctoral Dissertations

Orcid ID

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Business Administration

Major Professor

Timothy G. Pollock, Anne D. Smith

Committee Members

Violina Rindova, Wenjun Zhou


My dissertation explores how and why firms facing the same exogenous threats react differently, leading to different business model innovation (BMI) processes. I examine BMI in a context that has been hard-hit by COVID-19 pandemic restrictions—the restaurant industry. Employing a mixed-method research design, I conducted a longitudinal, inductive comparative case study of 17 restaurateurs in the same geographic region to explore how they have responded to the pandemic and how their BMI unfolded over time. To generalize my understanding of these processes, I then analyzed large-scale media data about the restaurant industry using topic modeling. In this quantitative analysis, I explored relationships identified in the inductive study. From these analyses, I identified a new theoretical lens to explain how entrepreneurs engage in BMI during a crisis: sensemaking. Using different sensemaking frames (opportunity and threat), restauranteurs in this study undertook different patterns of BMI actions. Specifically, those who adopted an opportunity sensemaking frame are linked to two BMI patterns, (1) replacing or adding new business concepts and (2) expanding the business’s physical structure. Those who had a threat frame are related to two BMI patterns, (3) improving operational efficiency and (4) implementing temporary changes. In addition, unlike these restauranteurs, some restauranteurs who engaged in low-level sensemaking are associated with a BMI pattern, (5) using the same old business model. My topic modeling findings identify similar BMI patterns from restauranteurs across the U.S. My dissertation contributes to our understanding of BMI actions and processes by identifying the factors affecting BMI and explicating the dynamic processes BMI can take, rather than forcing a single framework on what is inherently a multi-modal process.

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