The Restaurant Critics

In this week’s Thursday Night Insight, Peter Mullarkey tells us how going out for an impromptu meal leads to a smorgasbord of options, washed down with plenty of discussion.

On a recent trip to Liverpool to visit an old school friend. My Girlfriend and I stayed in a hotel close to the shopping and leisure development, Liverpool One.

After an afternoon walking round the dock, a trip to the Tate Modern and viewing the Liver birds, we walked up to Liverpool One and decided to go for a meal at one of the many chain restaurants on offer, but just as in business, here is where the problem occurs. 3 people stood outside 20 different restaurants all with differing tastes. How do you make the choice?

Companies face these decisions when trying to development new products. They will (hopefully) have lots of ideas, but only with the budget to move forward by prioritizing one of them.

One of the ways to test if the product has any hope of being a success is by using the Stage-gate model which was developed by Robert G. Cooper in 1986 and although it has been modified by different users it has the same process:

Our “Discovery” was the large amount of choice, all conveniently located within a 200 meter radius. But after a quick discussion we had reduced the list by some influencing factors:

• Is it a restaurant rather than a fast food outlet
• Does it sell alcohol
• Does anyone have a strong aversion to the restaurant, (I have something against tapas, very tasty, but not a meal, just small dishes which don’t go together)
• Does it have an inviting atmosphere,

Once we all had common knowledge of these, we reduced the list to 5 restaurants:

• Las Iguanas – A Latin American Restaurant.
• Nando’s – Herby Chicken or Spicy Chicken, but only Chicken!
• Red Hot Buffet – A mix of cuisine in a buffet style.
• Yee Rah – Grilled food.
• Zizzi – Italian

At which point we start to walk between the eateries, perusing the menus and looking through the large glass windows at the atmosphere inside. This scoping stage also included looking at the menu of each of the restaurants and the most interesting was for Red Hot Buffet “a meet all” solution for the evening, a Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Italian and Japanese buffet, but it seems that the rest of Liverpool also had the same idea as there was a rather large queue. This put a cross against our initial choice.

We all pitched in with our thoughts, experiences and built a case for each of the remaining restaurants, trying to quickly weigh up all the pros and cons. At this point my hunger increases and I think they all look good, Rob is still unsure and Louise has made up her mind, but is being diplomatic.

But the decision was made when we focused on value and more importantly, at which venue could we use a discount voucher? After a quick search, we found a “buy one get one free” deal at the Italian restaurant Zizzi. With a few taps on a Smartphone, the choice was made for us, and we would get the chance to fight over the 4th free meal!

It was a relief to have reached a conclusion. We strolled in and asked for a table for three, then we were hit with a spanner in the works, there would be a 40 minutes wait before we could be served. Another group huddle ensued, but after all the choice and indecision so far, we said it was fine and that we would find a bar for an aperitif. This test emphasised that the correct decision had been made on the face of it, but just as in business, the proof is in the pudding…

Not all decisions can be made with a few clicks on an app for a Smartphone and just as with the Smart-Gate Model; some new products will need market research to help them to evaluate the bigger picture.

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