Say cheese, but don’t smile

This blog post owes a debt to John Seddon’s excellent tale about chicken wings on the new Vanguard website. The reason for writing this is that, whilst in Pizza Express the other night, I found myself in exactly the same situation that Seddon outlined. Let me explain…Quattro Formaggi


If I ever find myself in Pizza Express then I usually have the same base pizza, Quattro Formaggi, to which I add whatever ingredients I fancy at the time. I know I’m not alone in this, as I have often received comments from the staff about other diners who do the same.

When handed the revised menu last night, I looked in vain for the Quattro Formaggi, which has disappeared. Now, in the great scheme of things, this is not a matter of life and death, but bear with me. In their wisdom, management have decided that we all want “Bianca Formaggi” instead. This still involves lots of different cheeses, but changes the blend and, importantly, does away with the tomato base altogether, replacing it with some cheesy sauce.

Now that just isn’t what I want from my pizza, so I asked the waitress whether it was still possible to have the old-style topping instead. She said it wasn’t, but she could get the kitchen to make one specially for me, with a tomato base alongside the new cheesy topping. She knew she could do this, because she had already done the same thing for others who also bemoaned the passing of the Quattro Formaggi! Incidentally,in my experience, Pizza Express staff tend to be very good like that and are always comfortable with veering off the set menu to meet customer needs.

Anyway, as you’ll know if you’ve seen the Chicken Wings video, the crux of the matter is this; when my order was rung through the till, there was no way of entering exactly what I had eaten and my dinner was charged as a new “Bianca Formaggi”. This has some interesting consequences for Pizza Express’ sales figures. Indeed, when management sit down to review the success of their new menu, their monthly board pack will no doubt show a successful introduction for the Bianca abomination. Sitting in a boardroom detached from the work, it would be easy to slap each other on the back and talk of an inspired decision, that shows the decision-makers know their customers inside out.

What a different view they might get if they went to spend time in their restaurants and saw how the actual meal served to the customer, differed from their data. You see the data says “Bianca”, but the customer says “Quattro”.

This brings me to my main point. There is much to be learned from data and it is essential to management. However, it is always dangerous to use data in isolation without also understanding the work. Use data wisely and it will prompt you to ask all the right questions. The answers however, lie firmly in the work, with the workers, wherever your customers are.


Incidentally, I highly recommend a browse through  , as the depth of information available in the new site is hugely impressive. A word of warning though, it’s highly addictive. I only intended a quick browse but several hours later, I had to be forcibly removed from it by my wife! If you’re very unlucky, you might stumble across this strange chap in the library section. Enjoy!


2 thoughts on “Say cheese, but don’t smile

    • Sorry Stephen – I missed this comment as it came through at a difficult time. I’m intrigued by your comment – care to elaborate?


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