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The Following Memorandum Is From The Business Manager Of Happy Pancake House Restaurants. - With A Free Essay Review

Prompt: 'The following memorandum is from the business manager of Happy Pancake House restaurants. "Butter has now been replaced by margarine in Happy Pancake House restaurants throughout the southwestern United States. Only about 2 percent of customers have filed a formal complaint, indicating that an average of 98 people out of 100 are happy with the change. Furthermore, many servers have reported that a number of customers who ask for butter do not complain when they are given margarine instead. Clearly, either these customers cannot distinguish butter from margarine or they use the term 'butter' to refer to either butter or margarine. Thus, to avoid the expense of purchasing butter, the Happy Pancake House should extend this cost-saving change to its restaurants throughout the rest of the country." Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation is likely to have the predicted result. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.'

While it might be true that replacing butter with margarine will allow Happy Pancake House restaurants save money, this author's argument does not make a cogent case for such a decision. The argument rests on questionable analogy, suffers from the lack of quantification, and makes unwarranted claims of causality, which makes it impossible to validate this recommendation.

Primarily, the argument makes an assumption that the customers from different states are identical in their inability to distinguish between butter and margarine. However, the argument provides no information regarding the preferences of the customers in other parts of the country. The first question that needs to be asked is whether the customers of this company in the rest of the country actually cannot distinguish between butter and margarine. If customers cannot distinguish and do not mind of replacing butter with margarine, the recommendation could work.

In addition to making questionable analogies, the author of the argument provides no real numbers. We know nothing about the number of these restaurants and the average number of customers there. So, the second question to be asked is whether the number of restaurants in the southwestern United States equals to the number of restaurants in other parts of the country. If the number of restaurants is equal, the company could implement these measures assuming the possible outcome to be similar to the southwestern restaurants. Even then the argument would have to further prove that the real number of unsatisfied customers equals to the number of formal complaints. It could be the case that the remaining 98 percent of customers are also unhappy with their meals but for some reason they just don’t want to fill in lengthy papers, or that the staff is not eager to give them this possibility. Furthermore, if there are only two restaurants in the southwest, and more than one hundred restaurants in other parts of the country, the company should not extrapolate the results obtained in a couple of cafes to the rest of their restaurants.

Another question to ask is whether the average number of customers throughout the country is equal. The argument states that “only two percent of customers have filled a formal complaint”. Thus, it could be the case that the average number of customers in the southwestern part of the country is one hundred and two of them had filled a formal complaint. These customers will probably abstain from eating in these restaurants in the future, which means that the company will lose two clients. However, when we apply the same statistics to ten thousand customers we get two hundred unsatisfied and lost clients; and this undoubtedly sounds much worse. In addition, the author of the argument does not provide any information on the amount of money that can be saved by replacing butter with margarine. One more question to be asked is whether this amount of money is bigger than the amount of money lost due to the unsatisfied customers. Moreover, the author does not provide any data on the actual prices of butter and margarine throughout the country. It could be the case that in other states butter is actually cheaper than margarine. Thus, the company should not extend the change to its other restaurants.

Finally, the speaker makes an assumption that the small number of complaints means that customers either cannot distinguish between butter and margarine, or use the term butter to refer to both products. However, the fact that customers do ask for butter, means that they definitely want to eat their meals with butter, not margarine. Otherwise, they would have asked for margarine. The author also makes an unwarranted claim of causality by assuming that there can be only two possible reasons preventing customers from complaining. Probably customers are not satisfied with their pancakes and make a decision not to come back to this place. Moreover, some people just do not like arguing and try to avoid any conflicts. So, there could be multiple explanations for a two percent rate of complaints. Hence, we should also ask whether there is another figure that would allow us to make a conclusion about the real number of unsatisfied clients. It could be a piece of retrospective data on the number of clients, for example. In case there was a decrease in the number of clients, the company should not extend this measure to its other cafes.

The speaker’s claim, that the company should extend the cost-saving change to its restaurants throughout the rest of the country, is sadly misguided. The recommendation may not work as it is supposed to. First, people in other parts of the country can have a stronger preference towards butter and will write a huge number of formal complaints if given margarine instead of it. Second, even if they will not complain, they can opt for another pancake café which will lead to the decrease of revenue for this chain of pancake restaurants. Finally, it could be true that in other parts of the country margarine is not cheaper than butter, which will preclude this recommendation from being effective. The argument could have been stronger, had it provided comparative information about the states where the company is operating. It would also benefit from including some statistical data on the number of restaurants; the average number of customers, and the comparative amount of money saved after the new measure had been introduced, as well as lost after some clients stopped eating there. Finally, the author should support the assumed causality with some reliable evidence.



This is a pretty good essay in that it focuses, at crucial points, on identifying specific questions that ought to be asked in order to evaluate the given recommendation, and it does so on the basis of a reasonable grasp of the main issues raised by the memorandum. If the essay is longer that what you would normally write under the imposed time constraints, then of course you will need to distinguish more carefully between what is necessary to discuss here and what is not necessary. The less valuable parts of your essay are those that merely criticize the failings of the business manager's argument (the focus of your last paragraph, for instance) or simply disagree with the business manager's view of things (as when you tell us what "the fact that customers do ask for butter" certainly means).

Many of the questions that you identify here are reasonable but I don't think that is true of the first question, which to me doesn't seem that much more reasonable than asking, as your first question, whether the proposal will be successful. Of course one would want to know whether Northerners can distinguish between butter or margarine, but if you are to enter into the spirit of the given prompt, you ought to try to identify questions that one might reasonably expect to be answerable within the established context. So instead of asking that question, or instead of merely asserting that customers "definitely want to eat their meals with butter," one should ask questions that would allow one to determine how significant an impact the switch to margarine will have on the profitability (in terms of increased savings and possibly decreased numbers of customers); e.g., whether the profits at the southwestern restaurants have actually risen, and risen over a sufficiently long period of time so that the longterm effects of the change can be known; or just whether there has been any decline in the number of customers frequenting the restaurants. (I realise, of course, that you later get to a version of this type of question; I am just emphasizing that that is the right type of question to ask: "whether the amount of money saved is bigger than the amount lost due to unsatisfied customers.")

The second question you ask (whether the number of restaurants in other parts of the country is equal to the number in the southwestern United States) is a relatively straightforward one but I'm not sure exactly how it is supposed to help you evaluate the recommendation, and your essay doesn't do much to clarify the point. Perhaps one of the problems here is that the "predicted result" is not clearly stated in the initial argument (in other versions of this question, there is a clearly stated predicted result) so that you need to interpret what exactly this predicted result is before evaluating the recommendation, which your essay doesn't do (that you should have to do that seems unreasonable to me; I think it is a poorly worded prompt). (Given that there are now many different versions of the prompt, I would be wary of trying to write one generic essay that responds to all possible versions of the question, as some aspects of this essay suggest you might be trying to do. Your answers really need to focus tightly on the assigned tasks.)

Best, EJ.
Submitted by: elenad3d


Dear EJ,

Thank you very much for this review and for pointing out my mistakes.
August,02 2012

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