Cooking Up a Good Time

restaurant experience inspires card game

Diana Peterson, photos by Andrea Paulseth

FROM FLIPPING BURGERS TO FLIPPING CARDS. Creator Dave Schneider, left, and artist Nate Crandall demonstrate the new card game Cooking Customers.
FROM FLIPPING BURGERS TO FLIPPING CARDS. Creator Dave Schneider, left, and artist Nate Crandall demonstrate the new card game Cooking Customers.

Dave Schneider has spent his entire career in the restaurant business, so it was only natural when he decided to create a card game that it would involve a culinary theme. It occurred to him that he could take everything negative about restaurant life and put a humorous spin on it. And so Cooking Customers was invented.

Schneider enjoys game night with his family, including his two sons who are 6 and 8. He wanted to create a game that would gather families and friends to the table where they could get out of the technological zone and have some fun, social interaction that did not involve cellphones.

Originally, Dave found some computer graphics and created a card game. He planned on making it for friends and family only, but as they began to play the game, they encouraged him to take it public. Dave recruited one of his friends, Nate Crandall, to produce artwork for the cards. The two of them developed action cards, kitchen equipment cards, and unique dice.

Once the prototype was finished, Schneider conducted test groups, accumulated their suggestions, and refined the components. One day when he and his wife were at the Mall of America, they stopped in the Games by James store. Zach Rapatz, a representative from Uffda Games, was there demonstrating a new game. He invited Dave to a Brew and Board Games event he was hosting for local developers. Total strangers played the game at the event and gave Schneider their objective feedback. One of those strangers just happened to be a head buyer for Games by James. Dave sat down with him and received some great advice for fine-tuning the game. The buyer said Games by James would sell Cooking Customers in its stores.

After tweaking the game, Dave was ready to start the mass production phase. All this development occurred in about a six-month period. (I don’t think Dave sleeps much!) The game should be ready to sell by this fall – just in time for Christmas.

So, what is the premise of the game? Cooking Customers is a dice-rolling, card playing, stick-it-to-your-competition type of game. Each player must hire employees to make and serve meals. The first person to reach $20 in tips is the winner. While that may sound easy, the game puts up hurdles such as kitchen injuries, health inspections, thieves, and complaining customers. Like real cooks, game players can power up their cooking ability with helpful items such as energy drinks, coffee, roller skates, and robo cooks.

Games offer more than fun. According to, they help families unplug, boost language skills, increase attention spans, soothe anxieties, promote better memory, and lower blood pressure and stress. “Games are only as fun as you make them,” Schneider said. “In Cooking Customers, role playing can add another dimension and bring more creativity to the game.”

The game will be sold on Amazon and in several local stores, including Games by James. It can also be purchased on Schneider’s website,, with free shipping. Videos of people playing the game are also featured on the web page. Both the website and Facebook page will post information on the availability of the game, as well as local demonstration events. Nate Crandall’s art can be seen at