Tuesday, June 29, 2004

How the fortune cookie ruined the Chinese restaurant business

The Venue

One of the places that you must visit, if you are in the area, is Hunan's Chinese restaurant in El Dorado, AR. This is hands down the best Chinese restaurant that I have ever been to. The only time I have ever eaten there is Sunday after church at the Sunday buffet. This buffet only has eight items, but those eight items are the best examples of that specific Chinese dish ever to be found. While I was there and after I had finished my third plate, I was thinking about the gem at the end of the meal.

The fortune cookie

The cookie has become ubitious. Every single Chinese restaurant that I have ever been to has had these available, either with your check or in a big pile so you can get as many as you want. Was I asleep when the government regulated that ever single Chinese restaurant serve the jewel of the meal. I don't think so, I think this is either the upholding of a very long Chinese tradition or a perverse form of self regulation. I am not sure which, and it does not matter why it has become uniform through this great land of ours, only that the fact is recognized and not disputed for the next point.

The sting

The inherent problem associated with the uniformity of the cookie is that you begin to expect it, and might even judge based on the presence of the cookie. For example, if you took two Chinese restaurants. Chinese restaurant A is an excellent establishment, the buffet is always topped off, the food is always fresh, and it is the best Chinese food in the world. Chinese restaurant B is a seedy place with faded paint, food that is suspect, and has more conspiracy theories about the food than the bush administration. Which one would you choose?

Before you shout out you answer and leave froth over the computer screen, let me pass along this information: Chinese restaurant A does not serve fortune cookies. Can you feel the revolt in your mind, can you feel you body recoil at the thought off walking through the doors at Chinese restaurant A? The once proud symbol of the Chinese culture (at least in America), has become its downfall.

The wrap up

The cookie limits competition and inventive thinking in the Chinese food industry. What would happen if the cost of the cookie rose by a factor of 30. All of the Chinese restaurants would either raise prices (death) or stop serving the cookie (a fate worse than death, slow starvation). Keep this in mind the next time you eat a fortune cookie: the only way to beat the cookie is to abstain from the cookie. You are contributing to anticompetitive forces in the world, slow entrenchment of outdated modes of business, and propping up of an outdated tradition when you eat that treat.

Only you can stop the cookie.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You know what's good? Fortune cookies and chocolate ice cream.