Test Kitchen - August

Test Kitchen is back in Port Augusta with a 3-month plan to keep learning about how to connect generations through creating positive social and sensory meal time experiences to benefit social and nutritional wellbeing. We are currently serving freshly prepared afternoon teas (Tuesdays) and lunches (Wednesdays and Thursdays) fortnightly, moving to weekly from September 15 in our pop-up dining room.

We are excited to be sharing more of our story, activity and mouth-watering pictures of some of our chefs creations on our new facebook page; if you like what you see – you know the drill: https://www.facebook.com/TestKitchenSocEnt

During this phase, we set out to experiment in three domains: dining room design; social facilitation and barrier busting. To date we believe we are seeing that our dining environment (a dated AN Railway Institute meeting room) is not helping to support the emotional and sensory meal experience that we believe we need to create; however the food and the company appear to be making up for it in customers who come through the door. However, we do believe that this setting is not inspiring people to patronise our food business offering.

In terms of barriers to patronage, we have been examining the literature related to participation in congregate meal programs, which shows that antecedents of behavioural intention such as perceived behavioural control, self-efficacy, perceived benefit relative to perceived risk contribute to a customers’ intention to patronise. Look out for a more extensive commentary on the literature related to participation in congregate meal programs, predictors of restaurant patronage and restaurant selection preferences for older people over the coming week at http://testkitchennewsfeed.blogspot.com.au/.

We believe that influencing such critical decision-making processes is about getting our messaging right and to help us to experiment with this we have engaged a professional marketing firm. We have also heard that a frequent response to our current invitations is “that sort of thing is not for me” or “I don’t do that sort of thing”. We believe this is indicating that our offerings are not even making it into the realm of conscious decision-making, but rather are being screened out of consideration almost immediately in such people. We are looking to nudge our way into the decision making process where we have a chance to influence intentions and planned action.

With respect to the dining environment, experimentation with the layout and size of tables in the dining room has demonstrated that the size of the first arriving party, and the tempo of arrival of parties are strong determinants of seating organisation when customers are allowed to freely choose their seats and re-arrange tables. For example, when parties have arrived in close succession it is most common for them to arrange to sit together and to pull tables together in long rows as needed. This however does not necessarily work well for the social interaction of all.

One of our most challenging moments during our second week was when only one customer arrived to an empty dining room for a lunch service. This was quite distressing for the customer who quickly left – but not before being handed a complimentary take-away meal. This taught us about the potential harms of empty dining rooms (and potentially dining rooms with establish ‘full’ tables) on customers who arrive alone. We are currently exploring front of house hosting strategies as solutions to such problems.  

On the home-front, we are excited that we are soon to conduct our first home-hosted meal events with some of our pioneering early-adopter customers. We are looking at encouraging and supporting home-based meal hosting of and by older people through creating connections and supporting planning and hosting functions. We look forward to providing more on this in the next blog post.

We would also like to remind Ageing Challenge blog followers that we will be presenting on the Test Kitchen project at the Australian Association of Gerontology annual conference in Alice Springs (Nov 4-6). We will be showcasing our service and product development and seeking to engage participants in design thinking around our major challenges at that time. To view this program please visit: http://www.aag.asn.au/documents/item/691