It's Just Like Duck Soup
For many people, the idea of owning a restaurant conjures up thoughts of fun and easy money. The reality, however, is that running your own restaurant involves endless hours of hard work, often with little monetary reward. To give people a taste of the restaurant business without losing their money and sanity, restaurateurs Greg and Martin Thompson from Edmonton (Alberta, Canada) created a new board game called “Duck Soup.” Equally important, they will donate $1 from every game sold to Action Against Hunger. We thought that it’d be interesting to learn what goes into such a unique venture and why they wanted to get involved with Action Against Hunger. Read down to the end of the interview to find out how you can win your own free copy of Duck Soup!
Could you provide some background on your professional life as a restaurateur before you created the Duck Soup board game?
At this point, I guess that you could call me an “ex-restaurateur” – I’ve been out of the business for a while. I’ve done pretty much everything in the food-service world: cooking, serving, bartending, catering, room service at a hotel, fast food. My brother and I designed, built, and operated two restaurants and one fast-food outlet. I ran a high school cafeteria as a side business and am now a business manager at a high school.
What’s the most important skill to running a restaurant?
That’s easy – you need to be able to do any and every job, because somebody might not show up, and the owner is often the last one standing. Moreover, you not only have to understood the food and logistics end of the business, but also the entire infrastructure. Thus, if your AC crashes or there is a major plumbing or electrical problem, you’ve got to either fix it yourself, or know which specialist to call to get it repaired as quickly and inexpensively as possible. Downtime means lost revenue, but you have to keep paying your staff.
Over the past 10 years, many reality-TV programs have tried to depict what it’s like to operate or cook in a restaurant. How did you arrive on the idea of transforming the restaurant experience into a board game?
28 years ago, we had had a particularly rough lunch at the restaurant we were running. After walking into the kitchen completely exhausted and frustrated, my oldest brother (executive chef Bill) said “You know, someone should create a board game about this crazy industry to discourage people from getting involved in it!” This idea stuck in our minds for the next quarter century and we slowly worked on it. We had so many prototypes that didn’t work.
The bottom line is that you need a great restaurant concept, but if you don’t have talented employees, it will go nowhere. That’s one of the keys to Duck Soup: to get the best staff you can. That said, even if you plan things out in incredible detail, an unexpected disaster or staff problem can always come out of the blue. That’s another important lesson in the restaurant business and in our game – anything can and will occur, so you have to learn to roll with the punches.
Are you aware of any online games that are similar to Duck Soup?
We were kind of shocked that no one beat us to the punch, but other than some food trivia games , there really isn’t anything (neither online nor a board game) that’s like Duck Soup.
How did you settle on the name “Duck Soup?”
We first came up with several names. At one point, it was called the “Gourmet Cafe” or something like that, and then we wanted to call it the “Restaurant Game,” but our lawyer said it was a little too generic and there would be branding issues. We finally came up with “Duck Soup” and our father explained that it was a slang term from many years ago meaning “easy” or “a cinch.” It really worked well because most people who start a restaurant think it’s like being in the entertainment industry. They walk around, chat up their guests, and act like a big man, and think that this whole venture will be a snap: duck soup! Then they learn how much work, planning, and (sometimes) luck are behind a successful restaurant.
What inspired you to partner with Action Against Hunger?
When we were thinking up questions for the game, we found it a little disconcerting to be talking endlessly about fine wine, delicious food, and all the issues involved with providing a wonderful dining experience, while people are dying of hunger in many parts of the world. We first looked at local food programs in our hometown of Edmonton, but when it became clear that Duck Soup wouldn’t only be sold locally, but all over the internet, we decided that our partner organization should be active globally.
My brother’s wife looked up Action Against Hunger, did some research, and realized that it was a perfect match with what we wanted to accomplish. We really appreciate that your organization is providing hope to people suffering from life-endangering hunger and water crises, but also that you’re helping them get back on the road to self-sufficiency. That’s impressive. We also checked the Charity Navigator rating and Action Against Hunger received the top rating of four stars, so we knew our donations would be properly utilized.
Recently, I read articles and watched TV news segments about Somalia and how very few people in the first world seem to be paying attention to what’s going on there, but Action Against Hunger is helping people who are going through incredible hardships. Moreover, your field workers stick around long after the headlines go away to help ensure that it doesn’t happen again. As someone who’s spent a lot of time behind the scenes in restaurants, I understand that the unsung work is the backbone of any successful business or organization, especially one with such a lifesaving mission. That’s why Action Against Hunger is a great fit for Duck Soup Entertainment. We’re very honored to work with such an extraordinary group of people.
Greg has been kind enough to donate a Duck Soup game for us to give away to our loyal readers. To enter, please comment on this entry and let us know about your own "duck soup" - that is, what do people think is easy that you KNOW is actually really difficult? To earn additional entries, tweet about the contest using hashtag #ducksoup (use the button below), or post on Action Against Hunger's Facebook wall letting us know what you think of as your personal "duck soup".