The C-P Matrix

There are many factors that affect your enjoyment of a food-related endeavor. Taste, of course, is one of the main factors; it has to taste good, period. Service is another factor; prompt and courteous, but not rushed. We can probably agree on the definitions of good and bad for these factors.

However, when it comes to the atmosphere or overall feel of a venue, preferences tend to diverge. Writing about Goodwin’s the other day prompted me to ask myself some deep and probing questions. Do people agree that a restaurant in a basement is cool? Maybe stainless steel is cooler than exposed brick? Hmm, I don’t know. What’s your take?

Well, fear not, I have created a tool that is going to help us sort through this mumbo jumbo. It’s called the C-P Matrix and it’s going to give us the framework to have intelligent discussions about two very important aspects of a venue’s atmosphere, coolness and pretension. Here it is.

C-P Matrix

It’s built somewhat along the lines of the BCG or Growth-Share Matrix. We have two axes, one measuring the relative of coolness in a venue and one measuring the relative amount of pretension. By placing your food-related experiences on the matrix, or by observing how someone else places their’s on the matrix, you can make a more informed assessment of how desirable that experience is, was, or could be. As you get better at it and build a map of your restaurant visits, your decision making on questions like the following will greatly improve.

  • Boy, I want to go somewhere special for my wife’s birthday, I think she would be up for a simple, relaxing wine bar, can you suggest a few good ones?
  • Man, Jed is coming in from Denver and wants to hit a few microbreweries. He checked coats at the first brewpub in Denver and likes that atmosphere, any suggestions?
  • My only black outfit is at the dry cleaner, so where do I go on the Gold Coast to get a good cosmo?

I could answer the first and second, not the third.

Let’s run through an example of how I would place the aforementioned Goodwin’s on the matrix. As far as coolness goes, you can tell from my writeup that I think it would rank high on the coolness axis. And as far as pretension goes, it would be low. The crowd is business people in the loop just looking for decent, fresh food that’s not too expensive. To me, this place is Right On – high cool, low pretension – that puts it in the upper right quadrant and also explains why the line is out the door by 11:50 AM on weekdays.

Let’s talk about the other quadrants. Comfortable would be a great place to put many of the Irish Pubs I frequent. No pretenses, lots of dark wood, Guinness on tap, and plenty of burgers and fried food on the menu. Low cool, low pretension – my kind of place.

You know what Clubby is don’t you? High pretension, high cool…beautiful places full of beautiful people. The term clubby sometimes has negative connotations but I don’t have anything against VIP rooms or deconstructed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I just don’t go to many places like this and if I did, they probably wouldn’t let me in, until they saw some of my moves, of course.

Desperate. Not a pretty term, I know. But to be truthful, I don’t know of many places that I would put here. In fact, that’s probably the point. Picture a place that is kind of ratty, with no sign, and dim lights. The only people who know about it are people who know about it. Same crowd every night. Actually, doesn’t sound bad, but I probably won’t have any on my matrix.

Let me know what you think. If you’ve been to any place on my matrix, do you have a take on where I have placed it? Am I nuts, or am I food genius the likes of which the world has never seen before? Do you think I should get a bunch printed on 8.5 x 11 magnetic sheets so you can slap one your fridge for reference purposes?