I am now on the Council of one of Australia's leading Quality organisations and at the monthly meeting last night, there was a point raised by one of my fellow Council members about what Quality actually means.
Just like the whole idea of what food safety means has had me thinking, this interesting discussion last night has me now thinking about Quality and what it means.
When we are talking about food, quality has a fairly recognisable definition - it is about how well a food tastes, looks and feels (and, yes, sounds!!!). But the problem with that is this is entirely dependent upon the perspective, needs, likes and experience of each person.
As a good example, when I do the regular consistency check of the food in all the serveries at an Aged Care Client, there is a difference in the crunchiness of the food from servery to servery. All of the food is good quality but why do we have difference between serveries and everything is still good? It is simple in one servery there are residents who like food softer because it is easier to eat and in others the food can be crunchier as the residents there have no eating or swallowing issues. All are still very good quality.
The difficulty that food businesses have is in setting the quality standard which the food must be made to - do we use our expectation or do we use that of the customer or do we go somewhere in the middle and hope that doesn't lose sales?
A while ago Arnotts changed the flavour of BBQ shapes and even though the updated product met all of Arnotts very strict quality standards, the company lost sales in a big way. Why? Because customers did not like the new flavour and simply stopped buying what was one of their favourite products. What did Arnotts do?
They are now making two types of BBQ shapes - the old flavour and the new. Sales have gone back up and probably even increased. After all " There is no substitute for Quality."
Quality is inevitably linked to money, the better it is or perceived to be, the more that business can charge for it.
With food, the terms gourmet and homemade on a label will improve the quality perception of a product and almost always increase the price the food company can charge
There is a type of quality standard called Bespoke. This term means that something has been individually made from the highest possible materials. It is a term used on very high end vehicles and goods. Obviously people pay more for these items because of this concept of quality.
But still after all, what does quality really mean. The answer is actually fairly simple - it is what you as an individual consider to be the best available and whether you are prepared to pay more for it.