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Restaurant’s New Pricing Model May Require Antacids

09/05/2012

“You must pay for everything in this life. There is nothing free except the grace of God.” Mattie Ross, True Grit. That harsh statement, made by the voiceover of Ms. Ross in the Coen Brothers version of True Grit in 2010, stings the ears of some.

Trouble is Mattie Ross is only partially right.

I’m thinking specifically of air travel. Remember the days of meals, baggage check, seat assignments – all included in the price of a ticket. In fairness to the airlines it’s important to realize none of those benefits were really “free”. However as they were not priced ala carte’, baggage check and pre-packaged egg salad sandwich was perceived to be free.

Not anymore.

This week booking a flight online I was prompted to select my seat. I followed the arrows. Unfortunately there were no “open” seats. To secure a seat assignment I was fleeced out of $5 for a “Select” seat. Back in the day any seat not in First Class was not select. Not anymore.

Thought-Tech has bad news for those of you who hoped the airline pricing model would not creep into other sectors. It has and it might blow you away.

While airlines and hotels have figured out how to vary prices to fill flights and rooms, restaurants’ methods have largely remained in the icebox age. Now, some restaurants are borrowing a tactic from other hospitality businesses and charging different prices for meals at different times. The restaurants’ premise is that a dinner at 8 p.m. on Saturday should simply cost more than one at 5:30 on a Monday.

Granted restaurants have many fixed costs, such as utilities, payroll, insurance, etc. From a purely logical perspective it makes sense that some operating hours are just more expensive than others. But it seems they have it backwards. Shouldn’t it cost more to eat at 5:30 pm on Monday with a few blue-hairs in the house than when there’s a 45 minute wait on Saturday night? That’s how my brain works.

I used to think I knew a thing or two about pricing products and services. Not anymore.

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