Restaurants are an interesting case study. In part because of the accessibility, everyone has can cook something. So much like making movies or winning wines there’s a fair bit of “I’ve seen that done so I could do that”.
But restaurants are difficult businesses. The pricing power belongs to the landlord not the chef. Staffing is brutal. Inventory expired expediently. Examples like Chez Panisse, Five Guys, McDonald’s, and In-N-Out provide great history through industry, but are outliers in business.
This time is different.
One template for TTID is to ask if the technology has changed the system in an important way. For hobbies it was the internet. For air travel it was deregulation. For tickets it might be NFTs. For high jump it was the landing materials.
Another way to think of technology is: rules of the system.
For restaurants it might be robot. A restaurant rule of thumb is that food, labor, and real estate each tend to eat up 30% of the costs. Yet just with location is the issue of “wholesale transfer pricing“. It’s the same idea behind Netflix’s original content: Can my suppliers raise prices faster for me than I can for my customers? If the answer is yes then we don’t need Admiral Ackbar to note it’s a trap.
But the pasta robot changes that:
“The robot means Cala saves 60% on real estate costs, which it says it puts into spending more on the cost of food ingredients, allowing it, Richard says, to deliver higher quality meals at a better price. The company’s labour costs are similar to other restaurants — they still have staff serving the meals to customers.” – Freya Pratty, Sifted, October 2021
Cala, like ghost kitchens, has shifted the 30/30/30 economic equation. If the JTBD of food has changed then maybe the economics have changed too. Maybe future restauranteurs will feel a little more full.
Even TTID is subject to Spiegelhalters’s scorn. It’s attention grabbing to say that things really are different this time. Hopefully our series helps us figure out when it truly is.