How have we not come up with a better way to build vending machines than with those stupid coil things? Have we all not lost our money only to watch our desired snack selection hanging by an edge and out of grasping distance? With all the technology in this world we can’t come up with something better?
Ever since the whole “whole grain” craze hit the US, food manufacturers have become more and more deceitful regarding the whole grain content of their foods.
Personally, I am a big believer in the whole grain movement. Two years ago, I lost 30 pounds, mainly due to a diet that consisted of almost entirely whole grain carbs. As such, I’m always on the lookout for breads, pastas, crackers, etc, that are 100% whole grain.
The problem is that almost everything is labeled “whole grain” these days, yet most of these products only contain a minimal amount of whole grain. Take this ECCE PANIS “Multigrain Boule” that I saw in ACME the other day; on the back of the bag, in large letters, it says:
“WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, FLAX SEEDS, OATS, CRACKED WHEAT, BULGAR WHEAT, WHEAT BRAN, AND WHEAT GERM ARE DELICIOUSLY COMBINED IN THIS SWEET MOIST BREAD.”
What you are told, if you are into this kind of thing, is to look at the ingredients to make sure “whole grain” flour is the first ingredient. In this case, this text seems like the ingredients, but is actually just marketing text. Looking to the side of the bag, in much smaller text, regular wheat flour is actually the first ingredient.
A coincedence? Maybe, but I believe the food makers are purposely trying to deceive the public into thinking they are buying healthy food.
Is this a good thing?
Building a wine cellar is a difficult proposition; you need space, money and time. These are obvious points, but there is one other thing that is less obvious and perhaps the most difficult — knowing which wines to cellar and for how long.
Did you ever see a wine label say “Drink now through 2010″, or “Best cellared for five to fifteen years”? Of course not. I’ve even visited many vineyard websites and have never once seen this mentioned by the producer. For those who aren’t extremely knowledgeable in this area (most of us), the only way to find out whether a wine should be cellared or not is to get lucky with an online review or know somebody who knows.
Why is this? From a marketing / sales standpoint, the percentage of people who purchase wines to cellar must be extremely low, so I can understand why a winery wouldn’t be promoting the fact that a particular wine should be stored, but on the other hand if they are making wine that will be even better in five years, wouldn’t they want people to know this?
One good thing is the emergence of wine sharing sites on the web, such as cellartracker, cork’d and winelog. These sites allow the experts to provide some extra information about wine and help n00bs try to learn more about how to build up a nice collection.
I’ve been using Cellar Tracker because it has a large community of serious oenophiles. Cork’d is a bit more light and fun; I haven’t really played with Wine Log yet.
There was an article in the Wall Street Journal the other day regarding Dunkin’ Donuts and their latest marketing push to move more towards the Starbucks coffee shop model. What struck me most was the research methods they used — they paid a group of die-hard DnD customers and paid them $100 to switch to Starbucks for a month, then also paid some ‘Bucks regulars to frequent DnD at the same time. At the end of the project they conducted interviews with everyone to find out each customer’s impressions.
The data showed two distinct groups — which DnD refers to as “tribes” — of people. The ‘Bucks regulars felt DnD was unoriginal and boring, while the DnD tribe felt Starbucks was pretentious and snooty.
As a result of all this, DnD is moving towards a more “coffee shop” model, completing their transformation from purely a donut shop in the 80′s to a coffee-first destination with food today. Newely remodeled shops include granite countertops, curved espresso bars, constant music, yogurt parfaits and open pastry shelves. Because their customers, however, are not quite ready for the Starbucks schtick, they are trying to keep this model more down to earth, more straight up coffee and bite to eat and less coffee, cd and witty magnet set. In fact, they recently changed the name of their new “paninis” to “stuffed melts”, since customer feedback suggested that “panini” was too snobby. (One step at a time…)
It will be interesting to see how the remodeling, along with some new marketing campaigns that we should see shortly, will change the perception of DnD over the next year or so. At the very least, their creative research should be applauded.
I’m not sure why I’ve been picking up on “user experience” issues in the food and food service industries recently — I guess I love food and therefore get easily frustrated when these issues hamper my enjoyment of the cuisine I enjoy consuming so much.
Case in point: I was out to dinner the other night and I ordered a rack of lamb. The server informed me that the chef recommends the lamb medium rare, which worked out well as I planned to order it that way anyhow. As such, I expected the lamb to be cooked to a solid pink throughout. When it arrived, however, I was disappointed to find the lamb dark red in the center, barely cooked at all.
Aside from the general annoyance that comes from sending food back when the other person at the table has their entree, I became even more frustrated after discussing the situation with a passing waiter. While apologizing, he told me that “the chef’s medium rare is generally pretty rare“. A kitchen error (especially at an expensive “fine dining” restaurant like the one we were at) is troubling enough, but this piece of information was even more agitating. If the chef considers medium rare to be rarer than what is considered medium rare by the general public, why didn’t the waitress tell me that when I ordered the food?
As only a dorky UX professional would, I got to thinking about Jared Spool’s current knowledge vs. target knowledge theory. My current knowledge at the time was the common definition of medium rare. (This may be somewhat debatable, but I’ll stand by my opinion if epicurious agrees.) The target knowledge, in this situation, is the chef’s version of meduim rare. With no other explanation on the menu or from the waitress, as a customer I could only assume that this restaurant’s medium rare is the same as the common opinion. And because I assumed that my current knowledge was enough, I had a terrible experience.
Interestingly, the only restaurant (in my experience) that consistently does this well is Outback Steakhouse (which hardly qualifies as fine dining). At Outback, when a steak is ordered, the server always confirms the temperature ordered for clarification. For example, a customer ordering medium rare will be told something to the effect of: “that will be slightly red in the middle with a little pink” (Outback’s temperatures lean to the rarer side). This effectively fills the gap between current knowledge and target knowledge!
Perhaps in the future, I’ll take more time to clarify with the server to ensure that what I consider medium rare is consistent with the chef’s perception. Wouldn’t it be easier, however, if we all just used the same terminology for the same thing?
After successful visits to UI9 and UI10, plus another trip to Kendall Square for a Forrester Boot Camp, I’m starting to get pretty familiar with the area. If you’re thinking of going to UI11 or any future UIConf put on by UIE, here are some recommendations for non-conference related activities: Read the rest of this entry »
As part of a recent health kick, I’ve started eating a lot of Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter. Although natural peanut butter has a decent amout of fat, its low in saturated fat and contains absolutely no trans fat, so its basically all mono and poly fats (the good kind). It also has no cholesterol and is high in protein and fiber. But I digress — The reason I’m bringing it up here is to discuss the poor usability of the packaging of this product (and basically all natural peanut butter products).
For the unfamiliar, one must stir natural peanut butter before eating it, as the oil naturally seperates to create a messy goup. It is, however, virtually impossible to stir thick peanut butter without spilling it all over the outside of the jar and the counter. (Come to think of it, I have a similar problem with sesame tahini that I use to make hummus.) I’ve tried keeping the jar upside down for a day or two, pouring out the oil before stirring and then slowly bringing it back in, and even taking a bunch of the PB out into another container before stirring, but each time I’ve ended up with a total mess. I’ve tried to stir with a knife, a spoon and a wooden spoon, but still ended up greasy. I’ve also learned that if it isn’t stirred correctly the first time, the PB gets extremely dry by the end of the jar.
So, how can this be improved? Skippy did just release a “non-stir” natural PB, but it contains added sugars and oil so I’ve decided to stay away from that. I do think that a larger jar (or less PB) would help a lot — if there was some space between the top of the contents and the top of the jar, the problem would be alleviated greatly. (I’m sure, however, that this would cost the producers more money and is thus unlikely to happen.) Perhaps there is a specialized implement that could be created to stir the PB effectively? I’d buy it.
Anyone else have any great ideas? In the meantime I’m going to go have a snack…