Blue Cactus Wisdom; or why the “Slow Food Movement” rocks.

The Blue Cactus Cafe in Columbia, SC is the most unique place I’ve eaten. It appears a very plain diner, but inside wonders are kept. The menu is half Tex-Mex and half Korean. Dad’s American and Mom’s from Korea and the food is all home made every day, including the Korean hot bean paste and kimchee. If you’ve never had Korean food, you simply don’t know what you’re missing.

But what sets the Blue Cactus apart from other good Korean restaurants is their dedication to “slow food”. They will not be rushed. Good food takes time. The kitchen is small, as is the whole restaurant, and if you’re in a hurry, they suggest you go elsewhere. Lunch takes at least an hour, and complaining will get you nothing positive. As the Daughter once said to me, when she thought I was complaining (I wasn’t, I swear), “don’t mess with the people who can put their fingers in your food”.

While this may turn some folks off, they are the distinct minority. Business is always brisk, and the walls are covered with postcards from around the world, sent by dedicated fans. Whenever I am in the area I stop by for take out, and I live in Salem, VA. That’s 4 hours 15 minutes worth of take out. I have three identical coolers, all bought from the same Kmart in Columbia on three separate trips over the course of two years that just happen to perfectly hold four orders of my wife’s favorite dish, Bee Bim Bop. It is that good.

PassageMaker often gets inquiries from clients wanting “rush” the development of their product. This is always a bad idea. There are some things you just shouldn’t rush. When you try to push a project along too fast, corners get cut and often the product is compromised. We are always conservative when estimating lead-times, because we believe firmly in under-promising and over-delivering.

These rush jobs also are part of the reason for China’s reputation for shoddy products. It takes 12-16 weeks to get an injection mold built in the USA. A typical tooling lead-time in China is 4-6 weeks. Part of that is technology, man-power, work hours, etc. But part of it is making tools that may not be perfect the first time, that will likely require some tweaking, and that may not run as many parts as the USA tools before needing serious maintenance or replacement. This doesn’t mean they are bad tools – given that they usually cost about 1/5 of the American cost, it’s a good trade, especially in a world where products rarely have long life-cycles. While the tool may need tweaking, the total development time is still usually less than USA for a fraction of the cost.

However, under duress I’ve seen a tool take as little as 2 weeks in China. While they are sometimes successful in making a good tool in that time frame, it is not something you can bet on, and it can often lead to disaster. Best to wait the 4-6 weeks.

In short, people often come to us with unreasonable expectations. And while it is tempting to always say what the client wants to hear, I have to remember my friends at The Blue Cactus and be up front – lunch is going to take an hour, but it is worth the wait.

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