I recently came across this article about Jérôme Brochot, a French chef based in Montceau-les-Mines, France, who won a Michelin Star, but decided to give it back. It must have been a difficult decision to forego the honor that comes with attaining a Michelin Star, but it also shows a clear constraint that Jérôme established—he identified the audience that he wanted to serve.
Food at Le France Restaurant by Jérôme Brochot in Montceau-les-Mines, France.
By maintaining and growing a Michelin Star restaurant, Jérôme would have continued investing in high quality ingredients and techniques to cater to a wealthy clientele. However, since the surrounding town was slowly declining and its residents unable to afford the luxurious cuisine, it became increasingly difficult to keep the restaurant full. I would imagine that it is extremely difficult to continuously acquire new customers for high end restaurants; especially when local residents cannot afford such extravagance.
Sometimes being too fancy is a detriment. A simple cuisine that encourages regular customers might be the best strategy for building a sustainable business—especially since convenience might trump uniqueness. This usually explains why most restaurants cater to the tastes of local residents.
Clearly defining and understanding your audience is a key skill that I am working hard to improve. A while back, I wrote on Medium how Michelin stars are a great mental model to use when thinking about design. And this article made me re-think some of my original thoughts. I’d like to add a new caveat.
Everything does not need to be a 3 Michelin Star experience
I think that a lot of first time designers and product managers get caught up trying to make every feature “special.” And while this is a noble goal, I would counter that everything doesn’t need to be unique. It’s okay that a feature simply follows the styleguide that we have established.
The second order repercussion that junior PMs and designers do not easily recognize is simple: By having so many unique features, it will be difficult to establish clear user flows and a design paradigm that is consistent across different features/product lines. Paradigms and standards exist for a reason—they simplify the development of ancillary features and options.
Use the 3-Michellin Star experience for core, differentiated flows that make you 10x better than the competition. For other features, sometimes the simplest solution is the best solution because it is consistent, simple, and familiar for your audience. Don’t let your ego get in the way of quickly presenting a simple solution to your intended audience.