How to Avoid a Bad Meal

My father loved to travel; the Great American family road trip was his second favorite vacation style. [Doing almost nothing at the beach was his first, but that’s a story for another day.] One thing I remember from the roadtrips was that we always found amazingly good restaurants. This was traveling in the age before Yelp, Zomato, or even the Internet—the purely analog lifestyle.

Many of the best meals came the old fashion way: recommendations from trusted friends, Dad’s constant study of restaurant reviews, and from various food guides he brought with him. When these sources failed, he used a well-oiled process for finding a good meal.

Filtering out the Bad Restaurants

First, he’d examine the welcome signs that showed where the Lions and Rotary Clubs ate. These establishments would always be on the top of his list. He also developed a directed line of questioning for visitor center staff that avoided the standard reply, “what are you interested in eating?”, like “Where did your husband take you out for your last anniversary?”

Every detail mattered. He would drive by the places mentioned, and if the parking lots were comfortably full with local license plates, they might be worth a try. He looked at the crowd as soon as he walked in. Groups of happy customers? A good sign. Traveling salesmen eating alone? Bad. Was the wait staff keeping the tables clean? How about the restrooms? A common refrain in my family was dirty bathroom, dirty kitchen. Once a restaurant passed these gatekeepers, we’d look at the more traditional factors like the menu and prices.

We were never disappointed with a meal.

Filter out the Bad Dev Teams with the Joel Test

In a previous article (Vendor Assessment with the Joel Test), I describe how I use the Joel Test to filter out bad development teams before getting into serious discussions of capability, pricing, and schedules. The Joel Test poses 12 simple YES OR NO questions, and provides entrepreneurs a system to find a short list of developers whom they’re confident will deliver a product as promised.

Do you have a bug database?

Let’s take one example from the Joel Test, namely why issue tracking is such a telling sign of a development team’s maturity. Software development is all about getting the details right. A development team should have a bug database and, equally importantly, uses a bug number to track work on the bug, from reporting the problem, fixing it, testing the solution, and delivering without the bug. If this exists, you can rest comfortably knowing the team focuses on the details, and you too can see if they’re getting the details right.

The best bug tracking systems like Jira offer a team organization platform for prioritizing bug-related issues. The alternative approaches of sending excel sheets in long email chains is a disorganized time-waster. It’s difficult to resurrect the history, and the most devastating bugs may slip through the cracks and know bugs not even get fixed until the end users finds them.


My father’s restaurant filter always got him a good meal. Just as a quality restaurant hosting Lions and Rotary Club meetings and it’s community support each other, a team is using a bug tracking tool lets you know they get the details right.

Strictly using the Joel Test ensures you work with the best teams. If your current team falls a bit short, use it as a tool to improve the process and your prospects for success.

So you have a “Joel Test” for restaurants? What do you look for when deciding where to eat? Post your comments below!


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