Dapper Penguin Studios
August 5, 2022
Wisdom from those who have tried opening a restaurant informs you that it isn’t the easiest way to make money. If Recipe for Disaster is any indication, running a successful eatery is a challenging, trial-and-error affair with plenty of stress and frustration, but one that, once mastered, offers excitement and gratification to balance it all out.
In this restaurant-management sim, you manage staff, monitor your business, and work to ensure your lights stay on. Hiring the right employees to develop a balanced team composition and designing a functional and visually appealing restaurant are important, but this game goes deeper with its management tools. I particularly love how you can drill into the menu, even allowing you to create your own recipes.
Through its intuitive creation tool, Recipe for Disaster allows you to concoct your own mouth-watering recipes. Using sequential columns, you can instruct your kitchen staff on how to prepare your latest dish. I like that this isn’t a simple step-by-step layout; instead, you can have different tasks going simultaneously. Each ingredient or process you put in a recipe adds to the time it takes to cook, meaning that your chef will be pulled away for longer, and those appliances are inaccessible to anyone else. On multiple occasions, I grew overly ambitious with my dishes; it caused my kitchen to fall behind on their orders, and the restaurant crumbled as a result.
In fact, much of Recipe for Disaster operates on a delicate balancing act that had me weighing risks and rewards before opening the doors each day. Do I add a second grill to my kitchen to help with efficiency but start the day in debt? Would my dining room benefit from a couple of extra tables, or would that just inundate my kitchen staff with too many orders? Should I hire an amazing grill master with a bit of an ego and risk him walking out or annoying the rest of the staff? I loved walking the razor’s edge with every choice.
Of course, things fell apart on multiple occasions thanks to overconfidence or miscalculated risks. From an over-ambitious hiring plan to a poorly designed dining room, these instances are all frustrating since they can result in game overs, but I appreciate how each failure let me walk away with lessons on how to address different problems that crop up. These situations also allow for memorable, emergent stories to develop, like when a health inspector arrived just as my kitchen caught on fire or when a restaurant critic came in during rush hour while my entire staff was on the brink of quitting.
Unfortunately, the baked-in stress of managing a restaurant amplifies when employees sometimes stand around doing nothing when there’s work to be done or when the simulation incorrectly says an area isn’t accessible, leaving me unable to realize my dream designs fully. On multiple occasions, someone came into the building looking for a job, only to never return after I hired them. Thankfully, these unintended hardships are minor inconveniences in the grand scheme of this restaurant sim.
The number of things that can go wrong during any given day is remarkable, but if you strike the right balance, the resulting satisfaction as your leveled-up staff executes your perfect plan is astounding. Watching my team effortlessly handle a bus full of people and a line out the door never failed to make me smile, and by monitoring the in-game notifications and myriad meters, I could ensure my business continued operating like a well-oiled machine. While the main presentation is clean and streamlined, with icons that accurately and efficiently convey their meaning, the user interface is often overwhelming, thanks to the sheer volume of information it needs to communicate.
Whether you’re playing the goal-based scenarios or the open-ended sandbox mode, I still can’t stop thinking of ways to design a perfect dining hall. Though the frustration of failure sometimes got the better of me, I often couldn’t wait to get back in front of Recipe for Disaster to play through several more days of this enthralling restaurant simulation.
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