The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Control The Compliments …
January 8, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

My favourite restaurant in Shanghai is Din Tai Fung.

To be honest, it’s not just me – ask anyone who has lived in Shanghai [OK, any expat who has lived in Shanghai] and I’m pretty sure they’d agree.

Apart from the fact the food is bloody amazing, the service levels are impeccable.

As much as people like to heap shit on the standards of cleanliness and service you get in this part of the World, Din Tai Fung [as well as pretty much every major hotel] literally piss all over the global competition.

I have been to this restaurant literally hundreds of times.

Hell, I once went there 6 times in one week.


Yet despite that, they still continually give me a ‘satisfaction form’ to fill in on every visit.

To be honest, having filled so many in, I can now do it with my eyes closed, however just recently I realised that there may be more reasons behind them doing this than simply ensuring perfect product and service.

To explain what I mean, here is the form they give you …

Pretty standard eh?

They ask you a question and then invite you to tick good, fair or poor.

But look at those options, good … fair and poor.

Putting aside the fact that even Gordon bloody Ramsey couldn’t give them a ‘poor’ rating on any aspect of their brand experience, I find it interesting they only let you tick up to ‘good’.

When I’ve been given these sorts of forms from other companies – mainly Western companies – there always seems to be an additional option of ‘excellent’, but not here.

The reality is I’d be ticking that ‘excellent’ box every single time if it was there, which got me thinking …

+ Is it because it ensures no one in the company can get complacent about their standards?

+ Is it because it ensures employees can’t use it as ammunition to get extra big pay rises?

+ Is it because the company won’t ever feel they’ve over-invested in their retail experience?

+ Is it because I’m a planner who thinks way too much about this sort of thing?

Whatever the reason, it’s evil ‘social manipulation’ genius.

Well, unless it’s the last option, then it’s just plain evil.

Last thing, Din Tai Fung is a chain and they’re in quite a few cities around the World – so if there is one near you, you have to go.

I promise that you will not regret it, especially as the food and service standards are more consistent than errrrm, something really good that’s also really consistent. Like Queen and Birkenstocks for example. Ahem.

Seriously, they’re that brilliant you may even forgive me for writing this blog. That’s how good it is. And no, I don’t have any shares in them, but I would absolutely love to and they could pay my dividend in xiaolongbao.

55 Comments so far
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You think too much.

Comment by Wayne Green

Not very often.

Comment by DH

You’re kicking yourself you didn’t use this system at cynic aren’t you.

Comment by DH

if it was up to him, he would only offer fair and poor as options. do you need me to tell you which fucking box id be ticking for you dave?

Comment by andy@cynic

Leave me to dream.

Comment by DH

Wheres the bloody tripe?

Comment by George Parker

fuck knows but i bet i know where the fucking cat is.

Comment by andy@cynic

All over this blog.

Comment by John

nice doddsy. happy evil new year. youre off to a satisfying start.

Comment by andy@cynic

Word of advice Robert, “piss all over the competition” is not the best turn of phrase when you are referring to a restaurants superior quality food and cleanliness quality. The positive news is that after such a glowing review of their establishment, you will have a table made available to you for life.

Comment by George

do my fucking eyes deceive me? are you giving shit to campbell? what about the planner pledge to stick together through thick and fucking thin? you fucking turncoat bastard. i like it.

Comment by andy@cynic

He’s referred to as a product strategist these days Andy. That means he can ignore the planner pledge without penalty.

Comment by Pete

no fucking wonder you guys have ditched the do no evil shit.

Comment by andy@cynic

I know this will be news to you Andrew, but disagreeing with someone does not automatically mean you dislike them or disrespect them.

Comment by George

It could be worse Andy, he could be a product anthropologist or something.

Comment by Rob

why the fuck should anyone be surprised you went somewhere 6 times in one week? youve worn birkenstocks for 20 fucking years and liked shit queen music for fucking longer than that. youre an addict of sentimentality. thank fuck you dont like booze or youd be a fucking alcoholic in 2 minutes. would make you a bit fucking interesting though.

Comment by andy@cynic

“Sentimental addict.” Brilliant.

Comment by DH


Comment by northern

And regardless of whether they don’t go up to eleven on their rating scale, they still make the fundamental error of having an odd number of options so that people can’t vote in the middle/don’t know category – four options would have been better.

Comment by John

I don’t know where you come from, but where I come from offering 3 options makes it much easier for someone to choose the middle than 4.
And having a “don’t know” box for a restaurant evaluation form seems stupid when it is asking you about the experience you’ve just had. It not like they’re setting an algebra test. But that would be brilliant.

Comment by DH

Corrected version: And regardless of whether they don’t go up to eleven on their rating scale, they still make the fundamental error of having an odd number of options so that people CAN vote in the middle/don’t know category – four options would have been better.

Comment by John

Corrected version: if the owners use the form as Rob suggests, they don’t care how people review them, it gives them all the power they need to make their staff work harder for cheaper. Though reading how much Rob loves them, it seems he just ticks good for everything, which is amazing for such a grumpy bastard.

Comment by DH

I have another point of view. Who fucking cares.

Comment by Billy Whizz

I agree with DH. I don’t think I have ever written that before.

Comment by Pete

I agree with everyone. I’m all about solutions.

Comment by John

I still don’t know if I buy your ‘corrected version’ John. I think I agree with Dave’s perspective … especially the ridiculousness of offering a ‘N/A’ option on a questionnaire specifically devised to evaluate your opinion about a specific experience.

But what would I know, I’m just a planner, not a product strategist, a chief strategist, a chief product strategist or a chief product strategist anthropologist.

Comment by Rob


Comment by DH

Din Tai Fung is the best dim sum restaurant. Their xiao long bao are incredible. When I found out they were in LA I was so happy. And the food quality and service is as good as it is in Asia. Yo

Comment by Pete

This is the 2nd day running I’ve posted a comment before finishing. I was going to say this post has made me hungry and all I will be able to eat is a poor DTF substitute.

Comment by Pete

What is it they say about a good workman … ?

Comment by Rob

Rob… You are a fucking masochist, aren’t you?

Comment by George Parker

i don’t call him the frank bough of advertising for fucking nothing.

Comment by andy@cynic

Is this the Frank Bough you are talking about?

I also checked out the restaurant. If you click on their philosophy ( they sound better than most agencies. I’ll have to check them out.

Comment by Bazza

I wish that hadn’t made me laugh out loud Andy, but it did.

Yes, Baz – that’s the one. Read about why he lost his television career and you’ll understand Andy’s comment to George [Parkers] reference.

I’ve seen the Din Tai Fung ‘philosophy’ page before. And the best bit is, the experience proves it’s true, not just some mission statement bollocks where they say their staff is their greatest asset before treating them like a bunch of slaves.

Comment by Rob

Why is everyone making up these pseudo Chinese food names… What ever happened to chop suey and rat dumplings?

Comment by George Parker

You have to ‘overthink’ when you’re actually at work, because you spend so much time on holiday …

Comment by Ian Gee

Not you as well Ian. I thought you were the mature person on here. How wrong I was. Ha.

Comment by Rob

I’ve just seen the irony of the title.

Comment by John

That should be the blog title.

Comment by Miguel

One of my favourite places, worthy of all the praise you give.
I have reminded myself that not everyone is as devious in nature as you, which is why I am confident the reason they offer only 3 options for customer evaluation is because they are decent people, simply looking to ensure their standards of experience are maintained.

Comment by Lee Hill

I know I’m late to coming to my own blog today, but 31 comments already. THIRTY ONE. I know Din Tai Fung is good, but I didn’t know even they were that good.

I will now read all you’ve said and try not to be disappointed that they probably ignore what I’ve written and just slag me off.

Comment by Rob

well were not here for your immense fucking insight are we campbell.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’ve been to Din Tai Fung in Beijing, and two different Singapore outlets many times and I have never been given feedback forms, so your hypothesis #4 makes by far the most sense.

Either that, or they have a bit of a sampling problem.
Or they don’t like gingers.

Happy new year everybody, or happy fucking new year, to meet the standards!

Comment by Thomas

Definitely a ginger thing. Definitely.

Comment by Rob

6 times a week, that’s more than I watch Youporn

Comment by northern

Happy birthday mate … now you’re 40, you can officially put your YouPorn exploits down to having a midlife crisis.

Comment by Rob

Ha bloody ha

Comment by Northern

If it’s really your birthday, happy birthday Northern.

Comment by Pete

Did you buy him a present Pete? If you didn’t they’re just empty words.

Comment by DH

if the tight fucker is going to buy anyone a present he better buy it for me. after all the planning shit i had to endure his spouting, i deserve a fucking mountain of gold coins.

Comment by andy@cynic

thats only because at 40 you cant get it fucking up 6 times a week. happy birthday you old bastard.

Comment by andy@cynic

Is it possibly just because of the English translation? Could good, fair, poor be more nuanced, subtle or have deeper meaning than it would in English?

Comment by Edward Krause

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