“If your food tastes like sh*t, make sure it tastes like sh*t every time, and the customers will return for more of the same sh*t.”
When I first opened a restaurant, a friend who was an F & B consultant gave me the above advice on maintaining standards.
I took it to heart and it didn’t take long before my business folded, and praised be the Lord, so did my friend’s.
That was many years ago, and I have since developed a better understanding of standards.
You see, in Malaysia, we do not have a standard definition for the term “standard”.
If someone says that you have no standards, he/she means you have no class, have poor taste in all things “lifestyle”, or just lack refinement in general.
A village bumpkin may think that you have high standards for drinking coffee in Starbucks, but a city hipster would think otherwise, because to a hipster, only independent espresso bars have the right standard.
But it is Starbucks that can churn out consistently bad coffees, hence they have a standard; on the other hand independent espresso bars can give you coffees of high-standard but very often can’t keep this standard consistent.
You understand me?
There are things in which I appreciate standardized standards, such as mosquito sprays, because I need to know which brands actually kill the mosquitoes consistently and which merely makes them hallucinate. I need to know these things for sure, with all the dengue problems we have here.
To me personally, as a rather standard consumer, I think it all boils down to this: if something is mass-produced, or machine-made, I want their standards to be consistent; but when they are mostly hand-crafted, I want to see and feel the human factors, which often means inconsistent standards, which I prefer to call having ‘character’.
Do we need to have standards to compete in the global market?
We need to have high standards, yes, but not necessarily to produce standard stuff.
Proton has standards, they have very low standards, and this is why they are not going anywhere in the global market.
I used to have a 12” sushi knife, made specifically for a lefty like me, by the Aritsugu family in Kyoto. It cost US$1,200. The knife was made to an extremely high standard, but each knife there differed in terms of worksmanship; the standards fluctuated.
The Aritsugus have been making blades for 18 generations. They have only one shop. They don’t come to you; you have to go to them.
How many industrial giants can do that?
So what standard should we be talking about now?
The information and views set out in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of Kopitiam Ekonomi.