Monday, July 15, 2013

If Restaurants Operated Like Software Companies

The other night, we tried a new restaurant that's been getting a lot of buzz. However, like so many businesses in the Boston/Cambridge area, this place modeled its practices on the software industry. For example, after the food arrived, but before we could tuck in, the waiter asked us to click ‘Ok’ on an iPad to accept the license agreement.

I offered my wife half of one of the egg rolls, but the waiter intervened. “I’m sorry, but your license covers a single user only. You can’t share this item without incurring a separate fee.”

“Fine,” I said. “Just put it on the bill.”

I was about to sample the Beef Teriyaki when the waiter snatched away the dish. “A new version is available,” he announced. “Please wait while we deliver it.”

Twenty minutes later I finally got the Beef Teriyaki upgrade. It was, indeed, delicious.

The Kung Pao Chicken was exquisitely spicy, but at one point, I must have swallowed a hot pepper. I broke out in a sweat. My eyes watered and my hairline receded. I downed what was left of my water, and asked, as best I could through the coughing and sputtering, for a refill. “I’m sorry,” the waiter said, unapologetically. “We’re not responsible for any consequential damage. It’s in the agreement you accepted.”

Unable to eat any more, we asked the waiter to package up the leftovers. “These products are licensed for use at a single site,” he explained. “You’d have to purchase an additional license to use the products at another site.”

“Fine! Just bring the check!!”

When check arrived, the total was $74,392.17. Near apoplexy, we demanded the waiter tell us how they could have the audacity to charge that much for some chicken, some beef and a few vegetables. He explained with exasperating calmness. “True there are only a few dollars worth of ingredients, but it took thousands of person-years to develop the recipes.”