How 'The Purple Pig' Can Improve Our Preaching

Terry C. Young

The Purple Pig was a dining experience I will never forget.  While attending a Future Trends Conference in Chicago a few years back I took up the recommendation of a fellow conference goer to take in The Purple Pig.  Steps away from the Conference venue and within a stone’s throw of the Chicago River I sat down at the counter of The Purple Pig.  I must admit, I did not order their specialty, pig’s ear with krispy kale, but I did experience, five feet in front of me cooks, chefs and waiters preparing and then ferrying amazing dishes to a packed house of hungry patrons.  What made the experience so unusual was the intimacy between cooks/chefs and patrons.  We could see them at work (every detail) and they could see us, our wide-eyed hunger waiting for a meal to arrive.  The moment was unforgettable and the food was truly amazing.

Fast forward to a more recent and intriguing Harvard Business Review article that posed a challenge to some research that put forward the positive difference made when cooks and chefs see and are seen by patrons in a restaurant.  The research claim was “Cooks Make Tastier Food When They Can See Their Customers.”

In short, here was the experiment and the discovery.  Four scenarios were set up in real cafeterias over a two-week period.  In the first scenario, diners and cooks could not see each other.  In the second scenario, the diners could see the cooks (via Ipads).  In the third, the cooks could see the diners (via Ipads).  In the fourth scenario, both the cooks and diners could see each other (via Ipads).  Ryan Buell, one of the researchers from the Harvard team gave the following summary of the discovery.

The results were pretty compelling:  Customer satisfaction with the food shot up 10%when the cooks could see their customers, even though the customers couldn’t see the cooks.  In the opposite situation, there was not improvement in satisfaction from the baseline condition in which neither group could see the other.  But even more striking, when customers and cooks could see one another, satisfaction went up by 17.3%, and service was 13.2% faster.  Transparency between customers and providers seems to really improve service.

What then is the nexus between ‘The Purple Pig’ and the task of preaching?  I’m wondering, what would happen if, as we prepare to lead people into an encounter with the Word, we had before us the faces and stories of at least three or four of those who will share in this meal for the soul?  It is difficult to know how they could view US in the preparation mode, short of a web cam set up in your study area where they could log in and see us with bible and books open, head down and fingers flying as we write and prepare ‘the meal’ to be delivered to a hungry crowd.  This side of the experiment is a challenge, but what we can do is mentally, emotionally and spiritually see and sense our audience.  We can prepare with a vivid sense of the hungry in our midst.  What difference would this make?  If the restaurant research has any validity it may be a significant improvement point for us to follow suit with some real eaters clearly imagined in front of us as we prepare.  Should we not seek to always have a vivid sense of the hungry in our midst?

In the Ministry Resource section of @large we have provided a tool that specifically guides you in how to sense and see your audience as you prepare.  We encourage you to place this in your preparation file and work it out early in the process.  Always have your audience in view and in mind and you will most likely prepare a different meal than if you only see them for the first time when you stand to deliver the actual meal.

Terry C. Young, PhD is the Director of Ambrose@Large and serves as an Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at Ambrose University.