Resturant Service as a Metaphor for Product Management

Jalapeno peppersLast night my wife and I hit our favorite tex-mex diner for some enchiladas (for her) and fajitas (for me). They’re a family owned and operated business so I cut them a lot of slack in their service since some of their kids work as wait staff. However last night everything seemed like a metaphor for Product Management. Case in point:

  • They got mixed up somewhere and initially sent some other table’s food to us. It was late and so I almost ate it anyway and would have been happy to do so. Lesson: when the customer is hungry to buy from YOU, a suboptimal solution may suffice – it doesn’t have to be perfect, so ship it!
  • When they finally got our food out, my wife’s arrived first, and I waited…and waited…and waited. I’ll let it go because I like the place but when I’m ready to eat, putting someone else’s food under my nose is torture. Lesson: Don’t ship halfway. Suboptimal may be ok only when you meet the minimum requirements, so be sure you understand what they are (in this case feeding both of us).
  • Finally my fajitas came out, and the “fixins” plate did not have shredded cheese! Aside from the fact that serving fajitas without cheese should be a felony in Texas, it broke my expectations and I had to order it on the side. Lesson: If you know your solution differs significantly from the rest of the market, make it known. “We don’t include that feature because it would drive the cost of the product 30% higher, but you can order the add-on and get it.” You don’t need infinite configurability, but thoughtful customers will appreciate your honesty and evaluate their true need for the feature.
  • Last, I ordered corn tortillas in an effort to keep my carbs down. When they brought them to me, they only brought two – for a plate full of fajita meat! Lesson: Ship your product with enough consumables to last the customer a reasonable amount of time. Don’t make them turn right back around and order more consumables as soon as they’ve placed their opening order.
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  • Reply Bruce McCarthy March 28, 2007 at 11:15 am

    The product manager’s brain is always at work, even at dinner! Nice post.

  • Reply Ivan Chalif April 21, 2007 at 10:16 pm


    Did they offer you premium support for the next 6 months to make up for the problems you had implementing their product? They should also offer the next upgrade for free :-)

    The other lesson learned (you mentioned it at the outset of your post, but didn’t include it in your list) is that when a customer “likes” you (or your product), they are willing to put up with a good deal of quirks, but how many times of getting similar service will it take for you to stop going to the restaurant? For real-world customers, the answer is usually just 1.

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