Sunday, December 9, 2012

I Have Seen the Future of Restaurant Pricing and It’s Not Pretty

This weekend my wife and I went out to lunch with our daughter and her husband and his parents. We had eaten at this restaurant, an old historic New England waterwheel mill, on several occasions and were always pleased. And we were this time as well. But here’s the insight I gleaned from our experience this time – a tiny inclination or a tip into where the restaurant business is heading. The well-kept secret? The industry is testing out the airline’s business model. Yep, piece-meal pricing! Must just now be in the pilot stage (no puns intended).

They tipped their hand though when we asked our waitperson about separate checks for the luncheon. She responded that she could do that willingly, but we needed to be aware that “they” might charge us an extra dollar per person for that request. I asked who “they” was?  She replied that “they” was the computer. Sometimes “it” charged patrons for splitting checks, sometimes not. So she couldn’t be sure. She also didn’t know if the computer’s name was Hal or not. But if we wanted one check and then split the bill up ourselves using three different credit cards, that was OK and wouldn’t trigger an additional charge. (“Yet!” I thought in my mind but kept my mouth shut).

But it’s quite clear where all this is headed over time, isn't it? Now it’s a base price for your meal and then just tax and tip additional. But soon I can see that the “unit pricing” concept will take hold fully in this competitive industry.

“Oh, you’d like a booth with a seat cushion or more leg room? Certainly; no problem. There’s an extra $2/person charge for that. We call it our ‘comfort’ charge here at the Cozy Mill Restaurant. Did I mention you can get seating with a waterwheel view for just an extra $3.00 per party?”

“And since you brought in bags with you (purses and camera cases count as ‘bags’ you know), I’ll need to add a $0.50 handling and storage charge for each to your bill.”

“Now, as you look over our scrumptious menu, be aware that we have some new ‘extras and upgrades’ that you may find will enhance your experiences today. You’ll see these listed under ‘sides.”

Cloth napkin instead of paper - $1.00 eco fee

Silverware instead of plastic utensils - $1.00/set

Glass of water - $0.50 water treatment fee
Salt and pepper shakers (only in pairs) - $1.50 rental fee
Itemized bill - $2.00 accounting fee
I know, you’re thinking you’ll just frequent the drive-thrus when all this gets fully implemented. Do you not realize that airports already have a business model that takes into account landing, taxiing and ramp fees? Oh yes, the restaurant industry consultants are looking at that component right now.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

And drive-through may not be available long.

Sponge-headed ScienceMan said...

AVI - do you know something I don't?

Gringo said...

Not The Old Mill in Westminster?

Sponge-headed ScienceMan said...

A belated "yes," Gringo. Do you know the place? Great atmosphere and good food. A little out of the way for us, but makes for a nice side trip every once in a while.

Gringo said...

I have eaten at The Old Mill with my brother and his wife. Many years back they both worked there.