Bad food + good service > good food + bad service?

A few weeks back I went to a local restaurant and despite terrible food had a great time. Then last week I did the reverse, ending up dissatisfied despite good food thanks largely to cold, disengaged staff.

The truth is, when we buy something it’s not usually just about the end product. It’s about the experience.

In the first instance the food was clearly microwaved and the server spilled wine on us while serving – but her great attitude and sense of humour saved what would have been a pretty dispiriting evening and made it a dinner I look back on with some fondness. At the second, the food was good quality – but the atmosphere was stale, the staff seemed forced and stressed, and the result was a forgettable dinner that left a proverbial bad taste.

Talk keeps coming up of humans losing jobs to machines. There’s probably a line somewhere with more commoditised services – does the above example also apply to banking? weather forecasting? bricklaying? – but even if you can machine-make me a Michelin star dinner, if your staff are disengaged I’ll probably still opt for a place where the people truly care about what they do.