Every workday at 1:40 pm, I push my chair in, walk out of The/Studio office in Shenzhen, take the elevator 27 stories down to the first floor, exit the building, and walk 4 minutes 30 seconds to the same hole-in-the-wall restaurant. The same gentleman and owner greets me, and since the lunchtime rush is already over by this time, he is able to sit me at the same foldable table and plastic stool, on the sidewalk in an alley, with the same view of bustling urban China – pedestrians, bicycles, electric motorbikes, cars, and delivery trucks. As soon as I take my place, the gentleman always brings me a small cup of green tea and asks me what I’d like to eat. I choose, people watch for 4 minutes as the owner’s wife stir-fries my fresh pork and vegetables, and then my food arrives. Before I return to The/Studio, I make a point to have correct change for the gentleman, since the bill is always ￥12RMB ($2 USD). I set down a napkin, I thank the married couple and begin on the reverse route back to our office.
Certainly, this restaurant has become “my usual place” for lunch during weekdays. And, in most regards, the food itself has become a normal routine, too. Everyday the seasonings and ingredients used to cook my pork and vegetables yields a consistent taste that I can only attribute to this single restaurant each time I go there. But during each day’s lunch break, there is one important facet that breaks the monotony: seasonal vegetables. As the temperature rises or falls, and as the humidity fluctuates, the assortment of vegetables at the restaurant changes too. As days go by, I am able to enjoy the bold orange crunch of pork-fried-carrot-slivers or choose radish. Then as the season changes, explore the tranquil green tastes of pork-fried-broccoli or cauliflower. The changing seasonal vegetables deliver a variety of tastes, textures and colors to my lunch. But when coupled with the unchanging and dependable cooking methods that from my dear chef, I know to expect a scrumptious and delicious lunch break experience every day.
Returning to The/Studio office satisfied for the second half of each workday, I believe has helped me to learn more about end-to-end customer experience. Around 12 noon each day, as I begin to gain an appetite, I am always excited to return for the same experience — from the walk to restaurant, to being greeted by the owner, to sitting at the same table, to paying the same bill amount, to getting hungry at 12 noon the next day. But each time, I can enjoy the vegetable of my choice. The reason I have become a “regular” is just this: my lunchtime restaurant is dependable and delicious every single day.