Posts tagged “restaurant”

When A Food Truck Is Not A Food Truck

Now you can have all the positive attributes of a food truck (adventure, deliciousness, speed?) without the inconvenience of having to actual go to a food truck. Here’s some examples I’ve seen recently where an individual restaurant is named like a food truck but is definitely not a food truck.

Slicetruck explains themselves this way

I like to try and remind people that we are actually a restaurant and not a food truck. We named it Slicetruck because we started with a pizza truck and just couldn’t think of a new name for the store. You should try naming a pizza place. Very difficult to find something no one is already using and real easy to fall into the lame trap of throwing some meaningless Italian name into it or a “papa” or “mama” into the name.

The Taco Truck tells us

In 2009 we launched our very first truck in New Jersey…So far we’ve opened stores, kiosks, carts, and trucks in NY, MA, and NJ.

At least they each have trucks in their history, although it makes for a confusing name, what with their not being trucks.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Hong Kong’s Couples Invited to Wed at McDonald’s [] – [We did visit a McDonald's in Hong Kong the other week but we didn't see anything like this!] McWedding starts at $1,280, which includes food and drinks for 50 people. The package includes a budget version of the usual trappings: a “cake” made of stacked apple pies, gifts for the guests and invitation cards, each with a wedding photo of the couple. (Hong Kong wedding photos are taken in advance, with the couple in rented finery.) McDonald’s employees dressed in black suits mimic the actions of hostesses at upscale hotels. They greet guests at the entrance, usher them to the signature book and deliver food, even if it is just a Big Mac and fries. McWeddings were devised in line with local customs, particularly Chinese numerology beliefs that determine the best dates for weddings or other important events. The engaged couple was given a photo frame shaped like Ronald McDonald, marked with the “limited edition number” 138, an auspicious figure.
  • [from steve_portigal] Stalking insights with Steve Portigal [Foolproof] – [Lovely concise report from our UX Hong Kong workshop. Thanks, Tom!] Even a novice UX researcher knows the dangers of moving too swiftly to draw conclusions from fieldwork. It’s important to maintain a state of openness and observation. Leaping to solutions and recommendations can bias your view. This could cause you to miss something really revealing or valuable simply because it doesn’t fit with the way your view is developing. It shouldn’t be true, but in fact the older and more experienced you get the more danger there is that you’ll fall into this trap. Firstly you’re instinctively calling on experiences and patterns in user behaviour that you may have seen before. Secondly, the more senior you are, the more impact your (wrong-headed) views may have on the situation. The antidote? Spend some time with Steve.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Denny's is trying to restake its claim as a nocturnal hot spot for young adults. – The restaurant chain has been trying to set a different scene for night owls. Between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. it pipes in rock and country music and it is scheduling after-concert parties for up-and-coming bands. It has added late-night menu items fashioned by well-known musicians including Rascal Flatts and Good Charlotte. On Tuesday, singer Jewel is slated to concoct a new Denny's menu item at a New York test kitchen.

    Denny's last year created the "Allnighter" program, which includes adopting emerging musicians and offering a "rockstar" menu for night patrons. It gives adoptees $1,000 in Denny's gift cards so they can eat while touring. Then, Denny's uses Twitter and MySpace to inform its target market of 18- to 24-year-olds when and where the adopted bands' after-parties will be held and when new menu items are added.

    The program itself hasn't been as big of a hit, though. The chain of more than 1,500 restaurants said late-night traffic has increased just 5%.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Overused Food Words (from 2007) – Now we know what's wrong with "crispy" – it should just be "crisp." But here's a more thought-out list of overused terminology.
  • The Seattle Times (from 2006): Say what? A guide to menu-speak – We've blogged this before, but it's fun to revisit. This explains the meaning of some of the obscure food items that are becoming more common on menus.
  • (From 2001) Menu Cliches – "piping hot"
    "garden fresh"
  • Village Voice's List of Overused Food Words – List includes Dollop, Slathered, Homey, Wilted, Toothsome, Nosh, Drizzled, Garlicky, Crispy, Eatery, Well-Browned but doesn't seem that they've really parsed the difference between effective description and overwrought cliche. How is "crispy" an overused word? Some commenters add some good words but others support my confusion over the premise.
    (via Eater SF)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Vermont's first IHOP gets permission to go beyond standard franchise menu and offer Vermont maple syrup – “You can’t open up a Vermont pancake shop without Vermont maple syrup,” said Sam Handy Jr., who is the restaurant’s general manager and whose family owns the franchis
  • Symbols of pot-subculture on the threshold of the mainstream – The significance of April 20 dates to a ritual begun in the early 1970s in which a group of Northern California teenagers smoked marijuana every day at 4:20 p.m. Word of the ritual spread and expanded to a yearly event in various places. For fans of the drug, perhaps the biggest indicator of changing attitudes is how widespread the observance of April 20 has become, including its use in marketing campaigns for stoner-movie openings (like last year’s “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantánamo Bay”) and as a peg for marijuana-related television programming (like the G4 network’s prime-time double bill Monday of “Super High Me” and “Half Baked”). Events tied to April 20 have “reached the tipping point in the last few years after being a completely underground phenomenon for a long time,” said Steven Hager, the creative director and former editor of High Times. “And I think that’s symptomatic of the fact that people’s perception of marijuana is reaching a tipping point.”
  • Chinese government database doesn't recognize all the language's characters, creating 60 million edge cases – New Chinese government computers are programmed to read only 32,252 of the roughly 55,000 Chinese characters. At least 60 million Chinese with obscure characters in their names cannot get new ID cards — unless they change their names to something more common. Since 2003 China has been working on a standardized list of characters for people to use in everyday life, including when naming children. A government linguistics said the list would include more than 8,000 characters. Although that is far fewer than the database now supposedly includes, the official said it was more than enough “to convey any concept in any field.” About 3,500 characters are in everyday use.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice: the appeal of simplification by choice elimination – At the bottom of the Heaven's Dog cocktail list there's a category called "Freedom from Choice," where you leave it up to the bar staff to decide your drink. Diners choose the spirit they'd like and whether it should be "citrus-driven or spirituous."
  • Home + Housewares Show 2009…in Cartoons! – Pithy, brilliant, hilarious. Applies pretty much to every tradeshow I've ever been to.
  • Ask Jeremiah: The Comprehensive FAQ Guide to Twitter – It's a great document, but an online FAQ on someone's site is good for the type of user who is going to seek this document out…the mass adoption from Twitter is not going be as well supported by documents like this as it would be through the experience that Twitter itself creates
  • Lisa Smith and Caroline Linder at the Home + Housewares Show 2009 – "a maze of the bizarre and the banal, including picture frame air fresheners, pet hair picker-uppers, fingerprintless garbage cans, antibacterial marinaters, high-power vacuum cleaners, automatic hair-cutters, gas-powered blenders, anti-static dusters and instant boot dryers."
    "the spectacle is especially nightmarish; it represents the darker side of our discipline–product design gone wild and unchecked in the marketplace"
    "Who knew that both Miami Vice and the Southwestern pottery craze are preserved within the wide color range of KitchenAid Mixers?"
    "Q: How did you pick these forms? A:Oh, these are historical forms that we made up.""

Griddle to Griddle Design

The Griddle Cafe, Los Angeles, February 2009

Recently, we ate Sunday breakfast at LA’s The Griddle Cafe. They offer an extensive menu featuring some interesting pancakes. I ordered Scotch On The Rocks (coconut, pecan, oat, and butterscotch-chip filled flapjacks covered in powdered sugar) and brown sugar-baked bananas. Not only did I end up with a side of bananas and bananas in my flapjacks, what I didn’t realize was that the portion size was insane: three thick flapjacks large enough to hang over the edge of a plate:


Needless to say, I couldn’t come close to eating it. The more I ate, the more the plate resembled what it looked like when they first served me. Eventually I began to feel badly: I’m a glutton for eating something like this, I’m wasteful for ordering something like this that I can’t eat, and I’m an out-of-town rube for not knowing how to order here.

While I walked away with my gluttony issues intact, we struck up a nice conversation with our neighbors who pegged us as visitors and explained that it is possible to order a single flapjack. Next time! And when we declined the to-go box (as we were headed to the airport shortly) I was very relieved when the host offered to give the leftovers to one of the homeless folk who hang out near the restaurant (presumably because this is a common occurrence).

We left the restaurant and stopped into a nearby store. A few minutes later we emerged and headed to our car. We saw some street dudes walking towards us carrying a styrofoam box. Without exchanging words with each other, we knew that it was my leftovers. But maybe we were staring or looking expectant, because as we came closer, the man carrying the box (with that extroversion borne of the streets) asked us if we wanted some, flipping open the clamshell to reveal – of course – my flapjacks, still quite intact.

Seeing that indeed my food did not go to waste while looking upon the very flapjacks that had just been on my plate was a mini-lightbulb moment. And so I moved to reply with matching enthusiasm to the man who was praising these same flapjacks. But as my jaw opened, I realized that I had no smooth way to honestly articulate my satisfaction without identifying myself as yet another of his benefactors (even as he was offering with a mix of exuberance and cynicism to share with us). Instead, I simply affirmed that the food did indeed look good, and we each went on with our days.

See more of my LA pictures here.

Thank you for voting

Thank you for voting, Green Valley, AZ, January 2009

An interesting way to toot one’s own horn. This sign in Papa Murphy’s prominently yet graciously thanks us for voting for them as BEST PIZZA CHAIN in America. To paraphrase Monty Python, I didn’t vote for them. Did you? In fact, a little investigation reveals that this was a customer satisfaction and preference survey by Restaurants & Institutions Magazine. A survey is not an election. No one voted for anything.

R&I’s Consumers’ Choice in Chains survey respondents are a representative sample of U.S. consumers weighted to match the population by age, gender, household income, ethnicity and region. In all, 3,132 adults provided data about their awareness and patronage of more than 200 of the largest U.S. chains. These brands were selected for inclusion based on rankings in R&I’s 2007 Top 400 Chains list. The margin of error for this data is +/- 2%.
To gauge customer loyalty, respondents who patronized a chain in the past year are asked whether they intend to return. In addition, guest satisfaction on eight attributes is measured through customers’ ratings of each chain they patronized. To derive overall scores, performance on the attributes is weighted according to the category. This is done using separate ratings that consumers provide to indicate the importance of each attribute in selecting a restaurant in a given category. The weighted overall score can be used to compare chain performance across segments.

I applaud Papa Murphy for trying to induce a sense of participation in their patrons, reframing an external assessment as something that we can feel some involvement in, thereby sharing in their success. But the fact that the claim doesn’t stand up to just a little bit of scrutiny reveals them to be a little bit dishonest. Almost, but not quite.

See previously: Local Starbucks exhibits passion for their customers

Chipotle: Different and Better?

Ode To A Burrito is a Fast Company profile of Chipotle Mexican Grill and iconoclastic founder and CEO Steve Ells.

Chipotle has achieved these impressive stats by spurning fast-food orthodoxy….Chipotle also avoids the frills that pad other chains’ bottom lines. “Desserts and other sides are all profit for these chains,” says industry analyst Clark Wolf. “The whole infrastructure’s already there, so they can make a 90% margin on extras.” But founder and CEO Steve Ells staunchly refuses to expand his menu beyond four options (burrito, burrito bowl, taco, salad). “We want to do just a few things better than everyone else,” Ells says. “We just do things we think are right.”

Could you open a movie theater without popcorn, focusing instead on the core few things that enable the desired experience (this is a bad metaphor since of course popcorn is readily seen as intrinsic to a movie experience, in-home or in the theater)? Is Ells throwing away money for an idea that is meaningless or does he have a holistic Jobs-like vision that drives decisions like this (his name is Steve…)?

Elsewhere the article refers to fans of the chain and describes the growth and financial success the company is showing. But what do you think? Is this company run by a brilliant visionary?

Postcards from the road: PHX to PDX

It’s been a busy-yet-fun few days on the road, from giving a plenary presentation and workshop at ASU’s Design Research Symposium (more to come, whenever I get my pictures – Hi, Greg!), to meetings, dinner with colleagues, and helping a client synthesize fieldwork data from China and Russia into product concepts. Here are some images I captured along the way:

Font problems @ Sky Harbor Airport, April, 2008

No carry-on tires, Sky Harbor Airport, April, 2008

Well, Tempe, AZ, April, 2008

Pay Here, Tempe, AZ, April, 2008

Fear God, Tempe, AZ, April, 2008

Disengaged Citrus, Tempe, AZ, April, 2008

Life imitates The Simpsons, Tempe, AZ, April, 2008

Busy license plate, Tempe, AZ, April, 2008

Crepes To Go, Portland, OR, April, 2008

Font Era #1, Portland, OR, April, 2008

Font Era #2, Portland, OR, April, 2008

Dog Paintings, Portland, OR, April, 2008

Sign upon sign, Portland, OR, April, 2008

Lift party, Portland, OR, April, 2008

Morale and milkshakes

From a strange article in the NYT about McDonald’s holding an employee-only American Idol-style singing competition (for reasons they don’t exactly make clear)

Employee contests with big prizes are nothing new in corporate America. McDonald’s has pitted stores and regions against one another to determine who makes the best shakes.

But I thought that shakes (sorry, not milkshakes) were identical from store to store, based on a standard recipe and ingredients. Then what do you compete on? Speed? Panache?

Know it when you see it

Rhino art at the Centre Pompidou. Better pictures here and here

Cattle advertisement in the Bankside area of London.

Take the form of some large animal and paint it Ferrari red. Then cover it with layers of gloss. Is the result art or advertising? The context in which we experience it seems to make all the difference. A museum or outside a restaurant?

Note: a more detailed, and impassioned exploration is in I Know It When I See It. But they start with the big red rhino, too.

You are how you eat

The Dutch university of Wageningen has opened a restaurant of the future that doubles as a research lab. Cameras and other data monitoring devices will help the Center for Innovative Consumer Studies “find out what influences people: colors, taste, personnel. We try to focus on one stimulus, like light,” said Rene Koster, head of the center, as overhead bulbs switched through green, red, orange and blue.

“This restaurant is a playground of possibilities. We can ask the staff to be less friendly and visible or the reverse,” he said. “The changes must be small. If you were making changes every day it would be too disruptive. People wouldn’t like it.”

From a control room, researchers can direct cameras built into the ceiling of the restaurant to zoom in on individual diners and their plates. They watch how people walk through the restaurant, what food catches their eye, whether they always sit at the same table and how much food they throw away.

Koster said researchers can experiment with variables like noise, smells, furniture and food packaging. Is the same ham and cheese sandwich more appealing if it is wrapped in cellophane, under a glass cover or on offer in a vending machine?

They had already noticed that one table where the plastic chairs had pink flowery covers was always occupied.

Koster said observation is much better than questionnaires for consumer research as many choices are unconscious.

CRM brulee

As diners, an online reservation service like OpenTable has obvious conveniences. But as the NYT explains, “The other end, however, is where the service has real benefit.”

The reservations that pop up on the restaurants’ computer screens, especially those made by regulars, are accompanied by an important tidbit or two.

Doug Washington, a co-owner of Town Hall, said the notes were not just helpful, they are occasionally indispensable. Next to the name of one regular, who has a habit of bringing in women he is not married to, is an instruction to make sure the man’s wife has not booked a separate table for the same day.

Another frequent guest asks the restaurant to send over dessert compliments of the chef but to put the charge on the guest’s bill. Of another, who takes many of his first dates to Town Hall, the instructions read, “Do not treat like a regular!”

Cool to think about the other interfaces into a system and the other tasks being supported.

Mom’s Quality Correspondents at McDonald’s

Last year McDonald’s set up a panel of high-profile over-achieving moms. Their latest version appears to be drawing from the ranks of the everyday customer.

In a bid to convince health-conscious moms that its food is nutritious, McDonald’s says it will bring the group of mothers fully inside the company. The moms will visit restaurants, processing plants, orchards and test kitchens.

Beginning June 20, the moms will keep an online journal for roughly three months about what they see – and how they feel about it. The journal will be posted on the McDonald’s website and, the company hopes, read by other moms. McDonald’s insists it will have no input on what the women write.

McDonald’s dubbed the program Mom’s Quality Correspondents. The moms were picked from 4,000 applicants by Arc Worldwide, a promotions specialist.

They aren’t being paid, though McDonald’s pays for their travel. They got laptop computers for the program that they will be allowed to keep.

The women will be journaling – not blogging – says Starmann, meaning consumer responses to their comments will not be posted on the site. But the six mothers are free to respond to consumers or to post comments on other blogs, she says. They also will appear in videos at


About Steve