She was so into this that she had worked out plans and looked up stoves and prep furniture. I could see this was going to be a doozy of a client. She had lots of 'ideas'.
I pointed out that a stove/oven/prep area like that will never scale to 5,000 meals a day. To my utter surprise, this did not matter to her. She was more interested in having a kitchen that aided the rapid and elegant preparation of 300-500 meals a day, that was it.
She was not hearing reason about that and I'm conflict averse so in order to placate her, I conceded the point because she hadn't thought this through and there were lots of other reasons I could use to dissuade her from her “new fangled” kitchen.
I went on to point out that SHI Thursdays, Pearwasps, and the Olive Patch do not use that type of kitchen setup, and they are quite successful, and lets not forget the granddaddy of them all, the MacDonatello's set up. Their kitchen setups provide tasty meals at a much higher rate than her setup would. Sure, they may take a bit longer to build, and may cost more, but they provide the same quality meal with the bonus of being able to cook a lot more than 500/day if her restaurant catches on really, really big.
It turns out logic was not one of her strong suits. She had a notion that her kitchen environment would make her chef's happier and they would work better. Additionally it would cost her less to build the restaurant and she could use the savings to hire better chefs. (If she really wanted to save money, she could just buy normal straws instead of the more expensive bendy kind that people prefer.) She really didn't expect to make more than 500/meals a day, and she believed she would make a nice living doing that. She said if business was that good, she could open a second one and scale that way.
The obvious inefficiencies of building a whole new restaurant, rather than cook more meals in the existing one seemed lost on her. They clearly did not have too many business classes at her cooking school.
I pointed out to her that OK, sure, her new kitchen layout was 'innovative', and sure the chefs may like it better in the long run, but most chefs are used to cooking in a more standard layout. How are they going to adapt to this new layout in time for you to make a successful restaurant? The odds seemed low. Not surprisingly, she disagreed here. A client who is contrary for their own sake is the worst type of client. She believed that if they were good chefs, they'd figure it out pretty quick. The real talent is in knowing how to cook, not in how to use a specific kitchen.
I guessed the turnip truck she fell off of just pulled away. But I'm a professional and she was the potential client, but I hate to waste people's time and money. Since her idea was essentially experimental, I suggested we build a smaller prototype kitchen and see how it worked. She'd never heard of this but was intrigued. How much would it cost? I told her it wouldn't cost her anything if she didn't like it, and it would only take a month or two, if she liked it of course, the total price of the kitchen would include the effort put into the protoype (which would be thrown out of course). To this day I can still remember her frown. She'd worked in lots of kitchens and was confident in her idea. Also, she was somewhat cash constrained and adding the cost of building the prototype and the opportunity cost of delaying opening by upto 3 months was high for her. Too high.
She thanked me for my time and a week later, informed me she was going to use a smaller firm that fit her needs. I told her I appreciated the opportunity but thank god I didn't have to deal with this high maintenance, low margin client. Especially since we won the bid to redo Infront Chikenhouse's kitchens. Ahh chicken, the original whitemeat. Now that'll scale.