What is your VALS personality?

What is your VALS personality?

This week, a chain restaurant received zero stars for food by a San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic. The unfortunate recipient – Morton?s Steakhouse.

Morton?s is an ?old school? chain. It is not trying to be anything other than an expensive, large portion, safe restaurant (for people who want that sort of thing). It is not trying to reflect the immediate market, or even trying to cater to the locals. It is catering to reliable. I am not defending the quality of the food or service, but the reality of it is that ?chains? today are somewhat different than local restaurants. Local restaurants can be good, or disappointing, but seldom with the imprimatur of reliability which business travelers frequently desire.

After reading this review I started to wonder how much of this review was based upon taste in the mouth versus it not fitting local tastes (taste in the head). Interestingly, this particular Morton?s is one of the higher volume restaurants in the chain and was expanded just a couple of years ago. It doesn?t seem as though they are lacking any guests, despite what this reviewer had to say. I can?t help but think that this is because the concept is more value-driven than market-driven. I often talk about market-driven restaurants and how a restaurant?s survival is largely dependent upon appealing to the local market. However, where population and traffic allow, some restaurants can opt for a value-driven concept.

Years ago, a book called the Nine American Life Styles, written in 1983 by Arnold Mitchell, really launched the concept of psychographics, or the study of personal identification and its relationship to life style. Later, this became known as Values, Attitudes, and Lifestyles (VALS) and became much more definitive of types of groups.

The essence of this study articulates that our personal concept of who we are drives much of our personal identification with brands, and consequently with buying decisions. For example, a regular consumer of a budget hotel brand would likely think of Morton?s as upscale, and dine there for a special occasion event, whereas a Ritz-Carlton or Four Seasons guest might view it as simply a reliable steakhouse. 

In the San Francisco Bay Area, I see that there are more BMW and Mercedes in San Francisco, and more Saabs and Volvos in Berkeley.  What do you think this implies about their subsequent buying decisions for restaurants? What about Morton?s, or any national chain for that matter? They are usually VALs-driven concepts that appeal to a general typecast of people who can be found in any urban market. People who fall into whichever lifestyle Morton?s captures very well may like all of the things that this reviewer did not.

One piece of cautionary advice I can give is that if your restaurant is value-driven focused, it needs to be located in a high traffic area because the typecast you are trying to capture will be a small percentage amongst the overall surrounding market. 


Here is an interesting snapshot of the eight different lifestyles:

What is your VALS personality type? Take the VALS survey