Too much customization?

Last weekend I ordered pizza from Uber Eats. Admittedly, I don’t often order take out (or delivery). If I do get one of these things, I’m more likely to order directly in the restaurant and wait for the order. I’m a bit of a dinosaur this way. I also rarely get take out mostly because I hate all the packaging.

However, I did end up ordering it through an app. I was amazed at the amount of options to select and screens to scroll through to order a simple pizza. Honestly, it almost felt more time consuming and complicated than it would have been to order directly from the restaurant. I intentionally selected a pre-made option, rather than creating my own, which no doubt would have resulted in even more menus to click through.

The whole experience left me wondering if there’s such a thing as too much customization. I remember a particularly poignant lesson about offering choices and decision making from my catering days. I often did corporate catering at the New York Academy of Medicine. A lot of events were buffet lunches where we offered no less than 10 soda flavors, plus water, at the drink stand. In addition to the standard offerings of Coke, Diet Coke, and Sprite, some less common options were available. I recall specifically the Grape and Orange Crush. They’re not typical offerings at most venues.

Every time I stocked the drink bar I grumbled at having to stock and track so many different options. My manager, at the time, was adamant that having Orange or Grape Crush available could make somebody’s day. This was his rationale for the extra effort.

Then we had a new manager who cut the drink table down to four options. Instead of making somebody’s day with special soda flavors, we now made their day by improving the buffet line speed. Turns out people were inundated with too many decisions at our drink table. Consequently, this always created delays and bottle necks. With fewer options, people selected a drink quickly and moved on.

I couldn’t help but think of this valuable lesson scrolling through page after page of menu and topping options. Instead of being a time-saving convenience, the ordering process felt tedious and cumbersome. Too many options to pick and consider. Honestly, it was a little overwhelming. Next time, I’m eating in.

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