Did Data Save Christmas Dinner?

Did Data Save Christmas Dinner?

It’s become something of a tradition that we host Christmas Dinner for our friends who would otherwise have no family to eat with, and this year that meant ten people coming over. I’ve never cooked for that many people ever (eek!) and so thought I’d try to apply my business knowledge to my personal life. 

At 173tech we always talk about how success is reliant on the alignment of: Strategy, Data and People. So here’s how I went about it…

Strategy

When it comes to data there’s often a bit of a chicken and egg problem in which you need data to inform your strategy but without strategy it’s difficult to know which data you’ll need. So where do you start? For me the answer is always: Goal – Decisions – Data 

Goals

  • Provide a nice meal for my guests
  • Make it as stress-free as possible

Decisions

  • What should I serve?
  • Where should I serve it?

Data

What should I serve? 

When it comes to data, we always talk about how there is a huge amount of value that can be unlocked in the data you own, i.e. first party data. This can even be applied to my Christmas Dinner!

I have been cooking fairly regularly since lockdown and tried my hand at a wide variety of different recipes. Turkey has certainly not been on the menu, and while I have successfully cooked a roast chicken a few times, I went with gammon as this is something I cook more often and can easily be frozen. Armed with a little 2nd party data (aka asking my guests if they have any food restrictions) I had my menu more or sorted, BUT in thinking of my goal of ensuring this was as stress-free as possible for me, I also looked to see what third-party data could help inform my choices.

When it comes to third-party data we often ask  if the juice is worth the squeeze. Conducting market research or getting data from third parties inevitably has a time and cost associated with it, and while it can certainly help inform decisions, many companies are guilty of going too broad and suffering from analysis paralysis. I would always look for low-hanging fruit that can help add weight to a hypothesis before you go further. For me there was existing market research on which Christmas Dinner items go awry (helping with goal 1) and what factors lead to stress/ruined dinners (helping goal 2). 

While seeing which dinner items most often went wrong (apparently goose) didn’t really impact my decision, there were two gems in what ruined Christmas Dinner in: 50% said the hardest part was in getting everything served at the same time. 40% said that having people watching them as they prepared put them off. While the menu didn’t change I did decide to go with more frozen foods to make the prep easier, and I’m certainly someone who is put off by observers in the kitchen and so booked out the communal kitchen in my building to avoid prying eyes.

Where should I serve it?

My flat is just about big enough to fit everyone in but we only have a four shelf oven and so if I wanted to go down the frozen food route, I needed the extra capacity of the communal kitchen. I also needed to go and buy quite a lot of baking trays and boxes so as to transport the food up 15 stories from the communal kitchen to my flat.

People

Data and strategy are great, but we all know that it is people that will determine the success of any project. Cooking in two locations provided a challenge in ensuring that all the elements were delivered on time and so my wife and I prepared a full list of instructions of when each element needed to go in, be basted, be turned over etc. I would cook the meat in the communal room as this was the trickier job and better for me to do it away from other people, and she would cook the side dishes in our flat and entertain the guests.

Result

No matter how good your data, people or strategy is…you always have to build in failsafes. On the day that we got to the communal kitchen we found that the oven itself was in a pretty disgusting shape. Luckily, we inspected the kitchen in the morning which gave us ample time to clean it out before prep began. Other than this, everything else went smoothly and our guests managed to enjoy a nice Christmas Dinner.  

While this is obviously a fun example, it goes to show you how data can help inform strategic decisions and overall strategy if applied the right way!

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