Gut Check: Tastemaker

I recently spent some time playing a little restaurant management game that I found thanks to a post on Reddit by the creator themselves. Normally I don’t take game recommendations from the infinite void that is Reddit, but it was interesting and cheap enough for me to take the chance on this early access title. It’s called Tastemaker and it needs a lot of work, but there’s definitely something there that’s got me hopeful enough to keep an eye on its progress.

Tastemaker is this low-poly, very simplistic looking management simulation game that has you trying to build out your restaurant. The basic loop involves ordering ingredients and buying equipment that allows your employees to prepare different meals for customers. You have a couple of options for menu items that all have ingredient or equipment prerequisites that need to be fulfilled before you can actually serve more interesting meals. People come in, your employees serve them autonomously, and with your profits you continue to expand your restaurant, both in terms of menu offerings and actual geography. There is a clicker-like quality to Tastemaker that I really enjoy, specifically when you strike the perfect balance of customers, ingredients, prices and employees, ultimately letting you just kick back and relax while some cash rolls in. Unsurprisingly, you’ll need a lot of cash in order to address the concerns of your customers and staff while growing your little restaurant.

A big part of Tastemaker revolves around outgrowing your current capacity. Employees might complain about their heavy workload or customers might complain about slow service, both of which are issues that hiring another employee can easily fix. There might not be enough plates, ingredients or seats in the restaurant, all of which are easily fixed by spending more money just like in real life. At the moment, Tastemaker is very much a game about making the biggest and most efficient restaurant you can rather than being able to make niche restaurants that have certain specialties, meaning that every restaurant you make will eventually serve the same things because there’s no reason not to fill out your menu with all of the options available.

There were a ton of minor grievances that kept popping up throughout my play time with Tastemaker, but none of them were able to completely dissuade me from wanting to play more. Little things like not having a camera option that removes the walls or not being able to designate employees to certain jobs, to even the monotonous sound of cars passing by outside of your restaurant are just a couple of examples of these minor issues, but Tastemaker has some serious issues that need to be resolved before a complete release that I’m sure are going to be worked on as more people play during this early access period.

One thing that really bugged me was the inability to actually close my restaurant, which really became an issue whenever I wanted to redesign the whole store. You might think that isn’t that big of a deal, but every so often you’ll decide to expand your building to offer more seating or build some bathrooms or even just to expand the kitchen, but you have to do it one piece at a time because you have to wait until a chair is uninhabited before you can move it. Closing the store would make it so much easier for me to redesign my restaurant, instead of having to do it one piece at a time between customers.

There also isn’t an easy way to expand your store even when you do get the opportunity to do so. You have to destroy walls and move furniture piece by piece, which becomes extremely tedious considering how often you’ll be doing it. But even when you do build out your restaurant, there really isn’t too much you can do with the place. Now, I want to preface once again that this is an early access title, but there isn’t a ton of decorative flair for you to play with to customize your restaurant. I’m sure that will be expanded on as development progresses though.

Yet for as much bellyaching as I’ve done, there’s still something about Tastemaker that I’m still very much onboard with. It’s simplistic, maybe to a fault, but it has a lot of potential. I really do enjoy how it isn’t overly complex, opting for something way more approachable, but I’m sure that more systems will be layered on in due time. I really would like to see some more variance from Tastemaker, specifically I’d like to be able to make a burger joint where customers don’t complain about how we don’t serve pizza, or make a steakhouse where people don’t whine about the lack of chicken nuggets, but time will tell if I’ll ever have that ability. Tastemaker is a neat little experience that isn’t doing anything special at the moment, but I feel like it has the potential to be something great, and I look forward to tracking its progress.

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