Friday, June 22, 2007

Why you want all B's instead of many A's and a few C's

There's a Hong Kong cafe named Sika's that I go to regularly. From what I can remember, I think it's the restaurant at which I spent the most money throughout the years. Yup, I know quite some of my friends don't like going there. It was called OK Cafe for many years and my friends always made fun of its name saying that

"Yeah, everything is just okay, as its name implies, nothing special."

Some time ago I read one of Joel Spolsky's posts named Foreword to Painless Project Management with FogBugz, by Mike Gunderloy. Joel used a restaurant called Isabella’s in New York City as a metaphor to explain what great software is.

After reading the post, I suddenly understand why I visited Sika's for so many times these years: this Sika's in Los Angeles is just like that Isabella's in NYC!

For reals, Sika's is just okay in many different areas. For example,
  • Their food is okay, it never really surprises me. It doesn't taste bad either. Actually their new Chinese dishes are pretty good. I would give them a B+ for food
  • The environment is pretty comfortable, especially the booth seats. Their restroom is pretty bad though as the light is too dim and it's not so clean. I would give them a B for environment.
  • The service? I don't think you should expect much from Chinese restaurants. Despite this, I can't recall a single incident the waiters/waitresses make me mad. I would give them a B for service.
  • The price is actually pretty cheap. For just 7 to 8 bucks, you can get a soup, an entree, a drink and a little bowl of dessert. I would give them a B+ for price
If you calculate their GPA, they have a score of (3.3+3+3+3.3)/4 = 3.15.

Let's say there's another restaurant with two A's, one A-, and one C+. Their GPA would be (4+4+3.7+2.3)/4 = 3.5.

Oh, so the latter one should be better right? 3.5 > 3.15!

No. At least in terms of the money I'm willing to spend at the restaurant, the one with 3.15 beats the one with 3.5. How come? Let me explain.


My friend who said that there's nothing special if everything is just okay was wrong. Indeed, it's very special if some business is okay in every aspect of its daily operations. Using Joel's/geek's term, these kind of businesses are completely debugged.

Because Sika's does pretty well in all areas, there wasn't any single incident that gave me very bad memory. Since I don't have any aversive feelings with it, I just keep going back.

There's a Japanese restaurant named Rokuan in Chino Hills that serves very good sushi and sashimi. The service is very good (the boss would recommend the patrons to cancel their orders if she thinks that they're already full). The environment is okay; it's kind of small but gives you a feel of home.

However, the wait is extremely long.

At a normal weekend night, you should expect to wait for at least one hour before getting a table of 4 (since it's kind of far away, you usually go with your friends).

If I'm going to rate Rokuan, I would give them a solid C for the time I need to wait before getting a table. Just because of this single C, I seldom go there, unless there's some special occasion like a friend's birthday.

I go to Sika's almost every other week. Rokuan? Maybe two times per year. Which restaurant do you think I spend more money at?

When people make decisions, they usually do it emotionally, although they (especially guys) think that they're doing it rationally. If there's a waiter that shows me disrespect (such as making me look like a fool when I ask for some special customization of my food), no matter how good that restaurant does in all the other areas, I just would not go there again; no one wants to look like a fool man!

That's why you want all B's instead of many A's and a few C's for your business.

You may ask me

"What if a restaurant get all A's like those straight A's students?"

No, it won't happen. If they do so well in all areas, the restaurant must be packed, and since it doesn't have an infinite number of tables, my wait is going to be hours and I'd rather go to some place where I can eat immediately :P

Note: I don't really go to Sika's that frequent anymore since they've raised the prices of their dishes a lot. Due to the raising gas prices probably? (*___* )