kitchen nightmare

Dedicated to Steve, the biggest chef of all!

There are plenty of these TV shows around, those, featuring slick chefs who pimps-up hopelessly ran down restaurants. Their recipe: provide some expert advice and several well-placed helping hands, all to have each head in the restaurant face the same direction. With these measures, there is hope that the ‘re-designed’ establishment will finally appeal to the taste of the customer. If this is accomplished, and the customers are thrilled by the experience they have had, it might lead them to recommend the place to their friends, instead of discouraging them to even consider – not only for restaurants, this is the driver for sustainable growth.

Also, in other parts of the economy, the same law applies: you’ll only promote those experiences, which leave yourself with a trustworthy and satisfying feel.

Unfortunately, there are many companies that don’t take providing an experience of such kind too serious – and that’s why a lot of them need to get a similar kind of ‘chefs’ into their houses, in order to have their identity spiced-up, or have some tasty souse added to their dumb products and services. And this happens with a small, but crucial, difference to the original score from the television: the ‘kitchens’ of these defunct companies aren’t fixed by one single Gordon Ramsey, but several independent teams of ‘design-chefs’ are trying to get things sorted…

And in fact, most companies are like badly run restaurants: the CEO (which could stands for the restaurant owner) tries to keep the place going and keeps an eye on the supplies, and whether there is a positive result at the end. The R&D boss (could stands for the chef) is desperately trying to cook a meal of which he thinks it’ll suit the guests. The marketing & sales boss (is the maitre) is continuously complaining about the meals arriving too cold or too late, and that the prices are too high…
You get the issue.

Well, in order to improve their respective contributions to the overall experiences, each of the bosses has called for action, and has invited experts in the field of a brand, product and service, and communication: they have called-in specialized ‘design-chefs’.
The owner hired some experts in brand design to improve the CI of the place, including the design of a new name and logo.
In the kitchen (R&D), designers were actively innovating on new products and re-designing menus and dishes.
The maitre asked for support to improve the menu cards, and also he put some adds in the various papers, to create more awareness for the place!

Each of the design-pro hired-in truly is a specialist in his field. But unlike in the original TV-show, they were not coordinated by one Gordon of some sort, but they remained and acted as a dislocated and isolated bunch of individuals. These designers hardly knew each other, and therefore it’s not surprising that they did not coordinate their efforts: they weren’t even allowed to, even if they wanted!
No wonder that most of the ‘restaurants’ run like this hardly display consistency in look and feel and often, the ‘prices’ do not fit the ‘menu’ nor the ‘ambiance’!

I don’t think that these ‘design-chefs’ deliberately avoided to have a consistent picture put in place – on the contrary: everybody knows that brands, delivering an experience, which is obviously seamless and coherent throughout, are the more successful ones. That’s why most designers admire to work for apple or alike, even though they would have to hand-in their own preference for ‘taste’ and ‘style’ at the gate: in those companies, there is only one ‘chef’ calling the shots, there’s only one Gordon.

And in-here lies a fundamental problem: generally people struggle to give-up their own ‘taste’, and with that to obey to something ‘larger’ – and this specially counts for designers…
But if brands want to deliver a coherent and outstanding customer experience, which drives the loyalty and motivation of customers, they need design professionals who can cooperate and collaborate with their counterparts in the various fields they are active. And these designers need to understand and comprehend the effect of their contribution to the overall ‘picture’.

Management has to encourage this collaboration and make sure all pull together: because if this doesn’t happen, you might end up running a french fries parlor, where 30 maitres serve foi gras on plastic plates with the supplementary coke in a crystal glass.

Bon appetite!

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