Some while ago, a mutual friend served her "world-famous" sugar cookies for dessert at a dinner party she was hosting. She looked around proudly as we all hemmed and hawed. Not a crumb was left. Over cocktails, we followed the lead of her husband and talked through a go-to-market strategy to deliver these cookies to the masses. Dollar signs were floating in her eyes.
The problem is the cookies weren't amazing. They were okay, but not special enough to compete with Otis Spunkmeyer. We didn't mean to lead her on -- and I suppose you can blame both alcohol and groupthink for the fruitless strategy session. Mainly, we were just happy to see her happy, and we frankly didn't think she'd ever actually follow through on any of it. Thankfully, she did not.
Friends and family are typically the first line of tasters for new recipes. They want to support you, which is precisely why they have the potential to be lousy guinea pigs if you're seriously thinking about selling your product. Even though everyone has a loose-lipped cousin or embarrassingly blunt friend who will tell you their real opinion, it's probably best to keep tasting sessions as objective as possible. The way to do that is to lie to them. Here are a few strategies:
Strategy: Remember when you were in junior high and you wanted to know if that girl had a crush on you, so you said that you had a "friend" who liked her? Bring out your product and say that an unnamed 'friend' made it and is looking for feedback.
Pros: It's easier for your friends to insult a product if they don't think it's yours
Cons: You can give yourself away when you know way too much about the product's preparation. Or when you push the product's website at your friend with your name all over it.
The Fake Packaging Switch-Up
Strategy: Go to Whole Foods and find the most obscure competitor to your product. Empty out the packaging and substitute your own product. Feed it to hungry friends the next time you host.
Pros: It's simple to get objective feedback -- especially if friends ask how much you paid and where they can find it
Cons: Be weary of this strategy with obnoxious foodie friends (the ones with cats and way too much free time) as they may go out of their way to know about every product and will not hesitate to blow up your spot.
The Angry Restaurant Waitress Experiment
Strategy: Bring your product to a restaurant. Find a waitress who hates her job. Not the bubbly kind -- go with the surly, trucker-mouthed, say whatever the eff I want type. Every restaurant has one -- just look for the star tattoos along the forearms .
Pros: If she has the right personality, this woman would love to tear into your stupid product and embarrass you - which would be refreshing candor. You also get to taste your food in a new surrounding outside your kitchen
Cons: She could always be angling for a better tip - or is just upset that you're keeping her past shift to taste your rubbery homemade pretzels
The Kids-Will-Try Anything-Once
Strategy: Children don't know how to be polite when it comes to food -- which is embarrassing for parents but awesome for potential entrepreneurs. Serve to your friends' kids without telling them you made it.
Pros: The looks on kids' faces are priceless - just YouTube "lemon babies" for a quick laugh. Aww. We are also blacklisted by one friend after learning a lesson first-hand that hot sauce shouldn't be given to young children. Totally worth it though.
Cons: Kids don't know how to give the most prescriptive feedback. Instead of getting a "cool it with the citrus, bro" - expect more of "my dog eats grass."
So there is our take on how dishonesty begets honesty. And though these tactics may be a bit deceptive, you should want the most objective feedback possible before throwing your life savings into the cheese doodle startup your friends claim to love so much. Once you've properly vetted your recipe to unwittingly forthright friends, you should start to actively think about showcasing your product in outside venues.
First Side Note: Bandar Foods is not responsible for any adverse reactions from your friends.
Second Side Note: Almost two weeks left in our Kickstarter campaign! Please support us - and... don't lie to us!
Next Post: People like your product, but will they remember it?
Lalit and Dan