In the spring of 1955, the county government gave me a small loan so that I could open a diner in our little town. But I wasn’t the only one—three other aspiring food chain magnates also started restaurants, and the battle of the burgers ensued.
I started off by hiring a recruiting girl and an errand boy from the local high school. Together, we slowly built a team, collected bottled drinks from wholesalers, and ran a small marketing campaign to attract our first customers. In the early days, we didn’t have a burger cook, so we could only sell beer, cola, and lemonade! But it was enough to scrape by.
In the second month, I decided to make bigger investments in the business. I reorganized the management trainees and sent some of the staff to take classes and improve their skills—while in class, they weren’t earning money for the restaurant.
Then, we launched a bigger marketing campaign enticing residents of the town to buy lots of juicy burgers. Little did we know that this would be our first battle.
On the day after the marketing campaign, we expected to take in a boatload of money. If we didn’t, I would have to fire some of the staff because our cash on hand was approaching zero. We were selling burgers for 10 bucks each—a healthy margin—and there were three big neighborhoods right next to the diner. I was confident that they would all come to the closest restaurant–ours.
Instead, we watched resident after resident drive past our little diner. Where were they going? Turns out, a competing restaurant was selling burgers for only seven dollars! I was thrown into a state of panic and began to think about how I would break the news to the staff. Our restaurant would soon be closed.
But in the last hour of the dinner rush, a group of customers appeared on the horizon. The rival restaurant had run out of burgers, and the last group of customers had come to our diner. We were saved and scraped through the month with just five dollars standing between our existence and bankruptcy.
Sensing the big burger opportunity, another restaurant owner opened a new location right across the street. I learned from the competition and reduced *our* prices to $7 per burger. So our diner drew all the customers from the area, but we were making less profit than before.
After that, the competition grew dirty. We degenerated into a price war. Every month, we did another reorg and lowered our prices by one or two dollars, until we were selling burgers for only three dollars each. The diner was getting customers, yes, but we could barely stay afloat. Our only saving grace during this time was that we hired our first CFO. He found several accounting errors and raised our net profits by 50%.
Suddenly, a lemonade craze swept through the town, fueled by the singer John Lemon, whose music played nonstop on the radio. Almost everyone wanted lemonade with their orders. The three restaurants that sold lemonade at $10 or less instantly ran out of stock. My dear errand boy, who I hired early on, couldn’t keep up with demand.
It was nice that we got to sell our current stock for a small profit, but the biggest winner had hoarded lemonade earlier. When our supply ran out, he began selling lemonade at $20, and the customers drank it up. He was rich! And we were barely profitable.
After that last crazy month, I decided to retire from the restaurant business.
The final scores:
$900 Lemonade Baron
$230 Opened multiple locations
$90 Priced out of business
In short, Food Chain Magnate is a harsh and unforgiving game. If you want a heavyweight game with no randomness, it gives you that exceptionally well.