This lunch is 500 yen ($4.80) at Sukiya, a Japanese fast food restaurant which belongs to a category with about three big competitors.

I love the aesthetics of this category and they’re under remarked upon.

I think people underestimate QSRs in terms of social utility, but Sukiya et al describe themselves as mission-oriented enterprises. I believe this is largely sincere, and goes back to the 60s and 70s, when the clientele was primarily manual laborers who had migrated to work.
Japan was not a rich nation at the time, and day laborers in particular were both unlikely to be able to cook for themselves and unlikely to have much of a food budget, and so the chains sprung up offering an honest-to-goodness cooked meal delivered in under a minute for cheap.
This heritage continued over the years, even after Japan became a much more wealthy nation, and these chains function as social support and dignity for folks in diminished circumstances.

They also are a wee bit of a cartel, and I appreciate the aesthetics of the cartel:
Back when I was first in Japan, in the mid 2000s, there was an increase in the price of beef.

And the heads of the three chains got together, and decided that the price of the basic beef bowl needed to increase, but given the economic circumstances how could they hold the line.
And what they came up with, from memory, was:

“We are very sorry, given the economic environment, to raise the price from 165 yen to 180 yen, but we are doing our level best to keep it there, and have mutually decided that approximately one yen of margin is appropriate.”
(That dish is, 15 years later, about 350 yen here. I thought there was a +/- 250 yen option still available, and the mini size is around there, but historically the political economy of the dish was based off that offering. I’m slightly disappointed seeing it at 350.)
Oh a fun foodtech (really!) thing I wish caught on more in the US:

If your offering is “I plate a bit of five big pots of things I cooked in the morning and keep heated as serving temperature all day” you can get the offering almost arbitrarily cheap.

Explains bowls, curry, etc
It doesn’t take more training to prepare rice than it does to prepare a McDonalds burger but by definition the only thing in rice is rice, and the only thing in the egg is egg, etc. (There’s a bit of seasoning/sauce on the beef, prepared centrally. Only prep here is heat + plate)

More from Patrick McKenzie

I like this heuristic, and have a few which are similar in intent to it:

Hiring efficiency:

How long does it take, measured from initial expression of interest through offer of employment signed, for a typical candidate cold inbounding to the company?

What is the *theoretical minimum* for *any* candidate?

How long does it take, as a developer newly hired at the company:

* To get a fully credentialed machine issued to you
* To get a fully functional development environment on that machine which could push code to production immediately
* To solo ship one material quanta of work

How long does it take, from first idea floated to "It's on the Internet", to create a piece of marketing collateral.

(For bonus points: break down by ambitiousness / form factor.)

How many people have to say yes to do something which is clearly worth doing which costs $5,000 / $15,000 / $250,000 and has never been done before.
So the cryptocurrency industry has basically two products, one which is relatively benign and doesn't have product market fit, and one which is malignant and does. The industry has a weird superposition of understanding this fact and (strategically?) not understanding it.

The benign product is sovereign programmable money, which is historically a niche interest of folks with a relatively clustered set of beliefs about the state, the literary merit of Snow Crash, and the utility of gold to the modern economy.

This product has narrow appeal and, accordingly, is worth about as much as everything else on a 486 sitting in someone's basement is worth.

The other product is investment scams, which have approximately the best product market fit of anything produced by humans. In no age, in no country, in no city, at no level of sophistication do people consistently say "Actually I would prefer not to get money for nothing."

This product needs the exchanges like they need oxygen, because the value of it is directly tied to having payment rails to move real currency into the ecosystem and some jurisdictional and regulatory legerdemain to stay one step ahead of the banhammer.

More from Food

Friends. I would like to share my favorite food and drink discoveries from last year, many of which only came about because of the pandemic. Restaurants demonstrated their resilience and creativity month after month. Crappy photos courtesy of my phone. Long thread alert:

[email protected] still serves some of the most interesting cocktails in D.C. To get them delivered, you have to purchase one food item. That's how I continued to fall in love with their muhammara (red pepper, walnut, and breadcrumb dip with pomegranate).

[email protected]_DC shelled out for great to-go packaging worthy of what's inside. Like this tuna-only chirashi (tekka chirashi).

[email protected] is becoming one of D.C.'s longest tenured restaurants. When you're really hungry and craving Indian, try their dinner tiffin with tandoori salmon, lasooni palak, dal makhani, lemon cashew rice, and naan. The lentils are so rich and smoky.

Whenever we celebrated a special occasion with a pair of friends in the backyard, we ordered a paella feast for four from @jaleo. Comes w/ a paella of choice, gazpacho, salad, bread, tortilla Española, and flan. You can keep the paella pan!

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