for most of the things we do we expect something in return. At school we are expecting good grades. Later in life we are expecting a good wage in return for our work. Life is not only about compensation, and we might do something for love from time to time.
What reward can a student expect for his thesis paper? Good grades, for sure. A feeling of fulfillment, having achieved something extraordinary. Sometimes, however, there is even a return larger than grades and fulfillments.
Our faculty member Bill Holstein tells us an exciting story about how a student of the Lorange Institute of Business put his thesis into practice. A story almost bigger than life!
I congratulate Ralph Detert on his commitment and his success! Extremely well done!
Lorange Thesis Opens in Germany
*) William K. Holstein, Professor of Strategy and IT, Lorange Institute of Business Zurich
If you ever took a course in calculus, did you, like many students, spend more time wondering whether anything about calculus was at all relevant to anything in your life and why you had to take the course, rather than working on calculus itself? For some Lorange students, they have the same questions about writing a thesis.
In a May 3, 2011 blog, Peter Lorange wrote “It is very satisfying to conclude your studies with a paper that reflects what you have learned and that demonstrates all the progress you have made.”
Satisfying? In most cases, after the fact, absolutely yes, but in a few, the satisfaction comes only because the pain has stopped. Demonstrating progress? Again yes, in almost every instance. The ‘pulling together’ of data, analysis and interpretation to support meaningful conclusions is an exercise that produces long-term benefits. Applying concepts learned in class, being forced to communicate clearly and succinctly, and creating a large piece of work under a deadline is perhaps even more valuable.
But occasionally a Lorange thesis produces immediate benefits and goes well beyond being satisfying, good for the soul, or useful. This story is about one such thesis.
Ralph Detert is the CEO of a German company that produces “Leading products in optical metrology for semiconductor manufacturing.” In addition to his CEO duties in the global high-tech universe, he is a member of an investment group; perhaps ‘venture fund’ would be a more descriptive term. One of the group’s interests was gastronomy and starting a chain of restaurants in Germany. Questions included: Which cuisine? Where to Start? Which target audience? What ‘theme’ or ‘style?’
Ralph tackled these and many more questions in his MBA thesis at Lorange, which he finished in September 2010. Jumping to the end of the story, the first restaurant opened in Munich just a few weeks ago.
An early finding of the thesis research was that food culture in Germany is changing – not as rapidly as in the U.S. perhaps, but changing significantly nonetheless. Important drivers of the change are a growing health consciousness, changes in the demographics of the workplace, particularly in the role of women in business, and the impact of globalization on the way people work, on what they know about foreign cultures, and the cuisines they are interested in trying.
The results of economic environment and the changes in food culture are quite clear; Germans have less time and less money for eating out, yet they spread their limited budget across more eating-out events. ‘Restaurant visit’ no longer implies a sit-down and a nice meal. Snack and fast food gastronomy is the fastest growing segment of the industry, but it is usually neither healthy nor cheap.
Thus the German gastronomy market is up against customers whose lifestyle is adapting to changing conditions and, despite tight budgets, more, rather than less eating out. Paradoxically, the thesis found in the segment of younger, more educated, more trendy buyers, a desire for not just cheap and fast, but a desire for entertainment, communication and ambiance in addition to the food. The German gastronomy market has been slow to react to these changes and to anticipate evolving customer needs. The thesis asserts that there is significant opportunity for new, agile entrants who understand what the market wants. Based on the thesis research, the investment group decided to develop the first of what is hoped will become a national chain of restaurants.
Survey research with randomly-chosen participants in areas where the new restaurant concept might be implemented verified that a large segment of the market is looking for more than good food at a good price/performance ratio. They want a trendy environment, a pleasant away-from-home experience, simplicity, and the opportunity to communicate and enjoy friends and colleagues. The first restaurant was built to cater to those expectations and includes a vitamin-rich wok cuisine that is light and fresh and tasty. The cuisine is a European/Asian cross-over, a mega food trend according to the research. The food was designed by a Michelin-star chef. The restaurant is trendy with a warm and cozy ambience.
Throughput time is flexible – fast if customers prefer, more casual and relaxed if desired. Costs are reduced by offering ‘partial service:’ guests order via iPads built into the tables but food is delivered by wait staff. Customers pay at a checkout counter at the exit. This positioning straddles fast food and a family-type of restaurant experience and enlarges the potential market. A good urban location, with 5,000 office workers in buildings within a radius of 300m ensures adequate traffic and exposure.
Comments from my final thesis report: The thesis pulls together a strategy for sustainable competitive advantage and growth of a chain of restaurants in Germany. The business model is sound and clearly differentiated from the existing players. The target market is well analyzed and supported. In addition, financial forecasts and an implementation plan are provided.
A classic example of what a Lorange thesis can be. Every venture fund should have this kind of support!
What is left is for you to see the Lorange thesis for yourself. Here are the details:
EAT. LIFE KITCHEN | Luisenstraße 14 | 80333 München | T 089 638 591 21
Need further encouragement? Here are the first reviews posted on Qype.com in late September.
- The food and the ambience were super. I can truly recommend. the place. We are about to go again.We will be back shortly…
- The food is awesome, light and fresh from the wok. The team is friendly and super fast. The location is convenient, only a short walk from the Central Station or the Koenigsplatz. Parking has not been a problem so far. I can only recommend it! Yummy!
- Great atmosphere, brilliant food and a very friendly staff. Last week I was there three times. Prices are very moderate for Munich. Not just for lunch. We lost time and stayed for a while after several glasses of wine. I can only recommend the place.
- A new restaurant. We were there last week and were very impressed. Great for lunch, light meals with fast and friendly service. I will definitely try this after work as well. Really great wines-at super prices! Beautiful, stylish interior and you can sit outside too!
- Super dishes, a different place for a change. Dishes are fresh and not heavy and spicy, as I like it! Friendly service. I’ll go there more often as of now!
- Trendy, super-tasty, fast and not expensive. Reminds me of Vapiano, but the food is much better. I’ll be back!
I’ll be at the Eat. Life Kitchen in April 2012 during my next visit to Lorange Institute. Look for Audrey and me near the espresso machine. After all these years of fussing with thesis students about their written English, you can fuss with me about my translation of the Qype.com comments from German.
Are you working on a thesis? Peter is right; it is satisfying. Best of luck!
*) Dr. William K. Holstein
The former assistant at Harvard who earned his PhD in mathematical economics was (among many other teaching activities ) visiting professor at IMD.
Today, he has been an associate Partner at Crystal Partners AG, Zürich since 2008 and Senior Advisor at Lat Link-Partnership in Change Consultancy, Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is the author of three books on Information Technology, BASIC programming, Operations Management. One of his recent publications include ‘Efficient and Effective Strategy Implementation’.