Can Someone Please Make This: an eHarmony for Food

Like most humans, I like to eat. It can be anywhere: home, restaurants, a gas station, a relatively clean dumpster behind a Wendy’s, even Golden Corral. The thing is, when I go to a restaurant I often have a hard time figuring out what to order. There are a variety of reasons for this. Sometimes the menu doesn’t do a good job explaining the item (what is Moo Goo Gai Pan anyway, some sort of beef gel?). Sometimes the item just doesn’t live up to its description. More often that not, though, the reason I can’t decide is because I’m not even sure what I want. Sure, I’m hungry. Buffalo Beef Wellington smothered in a sauce made of butter, Frank’s and blue cheese dressing sounds good enough, but I have the nagging feeling there’s something I would rather have. Choice can be a good thing, but sometimes I get sick of having to make choices and would rather just have some food thrust upon me. That can be dangerous game, though. Nobody wants to eat just any random thing. What I need then is some sort of middle ground—something that doesn’t require a choice but also takes into account my personal preferences. I need some sort of quiz that can be analyzed to find my perfect food match. I want the sort of food bliss that can only come from careful consideration of 29 different levels of culinary compatibility. What I want, in other words, is for someone to make an eHarmony restaurant.

Can someone please make this? It really wouldn’t be that hard to pull off. I’m almost kinda maybe half-considering doing this when I retire myself. Here’s how it would work: you, the restaurateur, create a questionnaire that asks all the big food taste questions. Do you like spicy food? Do you like tomatoes? What are your feelings on dairy? Is fish a good thing or a bad thing? Do you have any allergies? And so on.

The purpose of some of the questions shouldn’t be obvious in order to add an air of expertise and give diners the false impression that you’re analyzing more than you really are.  For example, have you broken any bones in the last 10 years? Do you prefer traveling by car or plane? When you head to the casino do you head to the slots or the blackjack table? Maybe even throw in some absurd hypothetical along the lines of the classic would you rather fight 50 horses the size of a duck or a duck the size of a horse? In fact, I’d say there should be at least five “would you rather fight” hypotheticals in the questionnaire.

Naturally, half the questions don’t factor in at all, but the ones that do should be either/or so you can make a flow chart that your waiters can use to analyze the questionnaire and determine the perfect dish. Ideally, diners should only get the same dish if their questionnaires were identical, but for practical reasons this might not be possible. Getting the right amount of questions and asking the right questions will take a little practice and tinkering, but it should be doable with experience. Keep in mind, this whole model will only work if the questionnaire actually does a good job selecting a dish. The most important thing should be to identify major turnoffs first and avoid those at all costs.

Of course, the questionnaire can never be perfect, and a lot of people may not really answer the questions accurately. For example, I like to consider myself someone who likes fish, but really when it comes down to it I find it tolerable at best. This mostly stems from my dislike of picky eaters and the fact that I like to think of myself as open minded. There may be a way to ferret out certain self-deceptions, but sometimes you’re just going to have to go with what you have.

The real homerun you’re going for with this restaurant isn’t just to make something your customers like, though that’s a good start. What you really want is to make them something they like that they would never have picked off the menu if ordering in the traditional method. If you can do that, the whole eHarmony-of-food thing becomes more than just a gimmick and starts to provide real value added. That’s something we can all enjoy.

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