I have been back to The Meat Co. for dinner about 5 times now and I'm into trying new things. My favorite is their fish and chips (I know - who woulda thought - in a steak house!), but I also love their petite fillets and OMG I tried the wagyu skewer last night and thought I had had a petite mort right there!
I have Slaps converted. She really wasn't thrilled by the idea of going to yet another restaurant in a mall - and a pricey one at that, but I won her over. The Meat Company is different - great service, great food, great atmosphere.
So, when my buddy, Ahmed (another one!), the manager, called me and invited me and a friend to dinner to meet their marketing manager, how could I refuse? I called Slaps and it was on.
Let me just say, I love marketing focus groups and surveys. I think they are the best way to assess quality assurance and get the most honest, frank opinions. I think it is very progressive of a restaurant to invite people to attend a focus group in the restaurant while they are eating.
Excellent use of data gathering and outstanding concept by management.
Sidebar: You also have to be relatively confident that you will hear some good things. In a lot of places in Kuwait, a market focus group would be lost on the organization because, "You suck." would be the common response. (That is 'merican, BTW, for "you are doing very very poorly.") It requires a base to improve on; and starting at zero doesn't really count.
The last market focus group I attended was several years ago - on french fries. I was all happy, thinking that I would get to sit down and eat fries and evaluate them (and get paid for it). Cool. So, I skipped lunch that day and went to the group hungry after work. There were no fries. There were no snacks. There wasn't even coffee. Dayam. I spent the 25KD I had just made at the restaurant next door on dinner.
At the Meat Co., we ate a lot of food while we answered questions. I would have gladly participated in a focus group about the restaurant, but I wasn't asked/notified that I was attending a focus group. Ahmed Dude said, "Come and meet the marketing manager, and bring a friend." Yeah, ok, so Slaps and I were bamboozled. Was Ahmed told not to tell us we were to participate in a focus group so that we wouldn't have prepared answers? I don't know. Thank God, Slapperella is a good friend (and/or that she was in a good mood) and didn't mind (although there was occasional eye-rolling), but suppose I had invited someone who didn't necessarily want to take part in a focus group - just wanted to have a relaxing meal as we had planned? (What woulda happened if I invited some guy I just met? It could happen. That would have been weird, right?)
I also probably wouldn't have chosen to sit next to smokers during a meal, either. "I'm seating you next to (Desert Girl) - she smokes too." No, you misunderstand, I'm smokin' (as in "hot"), but I actually have asthma and don't like to be around smoke. (I only sit in the smoking section if there are cute guys and then I hope that the ROI is high and bring my inhaler.) We didn't get to choose who was at our table (in the focus group).
It turned out that the people we sat at the table with were all very nice. I liked the Americans a lot. Good people with interesting perspectives/thoughts that I will probably (I hope) keep in touch with. If there had been anyone at the table who was truly obnoxious, I would have walked.
The good thing was that they held the focus group at a table in the middle of the restaurant (to obtain our feedback about the environment). The bad thing was that they held the focus group at a table in the middle of the restaurant: I couldn't hear well; the music was loud. I have a problem hearing when there is background noise and I have discovered that I sometimes can't hear people with particular vocal tone ranges (like my sister who gets totally frustrated at me. "Whaaaat?! I can't HEAR you! Why are you mumbling?). We were also seated at a large table at the Meat Co. and Marketing Girl sat at one end rather than in the middle.
Incase you are wondering about the types of questions we were asked, some samples were:
- Do you feel that the Meat Co. is innovative and trendy?
- How do you think we can improve?
- Why do you come here?
- What makes us different than just the ordinary?
- How can we improve our menu? (I loved the Lebanese lady with the gorgeous blonde hair who responded, "Put George Clooney on the cover - with ME.")
She also didn't provide anyone with a feedback form: Evaluate the evaluator. Never miss an opportunity to improve your process while you are improving your process. For example, I would have liked to note ways she could have improved on her connections with the group like perhaps not stopping people from speaking while she was taking notes (write and use a recorder at the same time, but never interrupt the flow). Or by interjecting more humor to make connections with participants. Granted, she is probably sent around to X number of restaurants and conducts X numbers of focus groups, but still.
We were all business people seated at the table. Any of us could have gladly afforded the meal we had last night or any other. I didn't like feeling like I was forced to answer questions for our food - which was kinda/sorta the way I felt. Perhaps it would have been different if I knew what I was agreeing to before I arrived there.
Luckily for all involved, I was on my best behavior. I was extremely tempted to start messin' with Marketing Girl, but I'm getting soft and I kind of felt bad for her. I think Slaps could see it coming, though, and was waiting for it. You know - along the lines of: What do I like best about the restaurant? 'Nothing turns me on more than a really big piece of meat.' or maybe 'African tube steak is always innovative and trendy.' or 'Those little sausages really dont' do it for me....' (shall I continue? tee hee.)
Anyways, overall it was an interesting if not weird evening and I love the Meat Co. I'm glad they thought of me to attend and I am always grateful for a good meal. The one I had was fabulous from appetizers to full desert sample tray. Yummmmmmmmmmmm.