Bah, humbug …

So, here we are. It’s the countdown to Christmas, that special festive time of year when restaurants set aside normal working practices and adopt local government service delivery principles.

No, really. This is what happens. Never thought of it that way? Well ok, me neither – until a conversation today about sprouts.

Here’s how it works; on any normal day, you decide you fancy a bite to eat. You may book somewhere nice a few days in advance or you may just turn up at your favourite local burger bar. You take a look at what’s on offer, you make your selection, you enjoy your meal and you hand over your money. You can have anything you want as long as it’s in stock, you can specify how it’s cooked and what you have with it, and you can arrive with 20 friends in tow and it won’t be a problem as long as there are seats.

Isn’t it great when you get what you want, the way you want it, for a reasonable price?

Then, suddenly, the calendar flips past October 15th and everything changes.

Now you want to book a meal sometime in December, and there seems to be a problem. A whole series of problems in fact. The menu is now only 4 options long, and all of them cost twice as much as they normally would. You want to select some side dishes? Sorry, there’s a set veg option (the same selection whether you’re having roast turkey or fish) and it can’t be varied. It’ll almost certainly include sprouts – they’re traditional, they’re easy and they’re cheap. Allergic to something in the sauce? Sorry, that’s how the meat arrives. No, the chef can’t do a special portion without sauce “just for you”. Allergic to something in the veggie option? Guess you’ll have to set aside your principles and have the fish this time. You can’t book for more than 20 people because they’re limited for space. Yes, they have 150 covers, but that’s not the point. Oh, and you have to know what you’re going to fancy 6 weeks in advance, because you have to order it when you book. Yes, all 20 of you.

Why do they do this to us? Because of the upsurge in demand. Suddenly, the same product at the same venue is a scarce and precious resource – even though they are capable of managing that same level of business on any normal day, with the full range of options. They restrict the options because it makes it easier, cheaper and more predictable for them. In essence, to control the demand better, they reduce the quality of the offer.

Now, if I don’t like the options here I can choose not to have the meal. I can eat elsewhere, or stay at home. But what if it’s a service like care for my elderly relative, or a an educational psychologist for my child, or a repair to the road by my house? I have no choice. I accept the rationing, the delays, the restrictions, because even if I could afford to pay someone else to provide this service, it’s not possible. In fact I’ve already paid, through contributions to taxes, but I can’t have the best or most effective solution because all I’m offered is overcooked sprouts six weeks from now.

I hate sprouts, by the way.



About jargonaut

Unashamed geek lost in policy land. Frequently required to believe three impossible things before breakfast, and implement them by tea time.
This entry was posted in Future Landscape, Ramblings, Uncategorized, Work and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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