Markets in everything

by on June 14, 2010 at 12:57 am in Food and Drink | Permalink

This one is from Australia:

Chef Yukako Ichikawa has introduced a 30 percent discount for diners who eat all the food they have ordered at Wafu, her 30-seat restaurant in the Sydney suburb of Surry Hills, that describes itself as "guilty free Japanese cuisine."

"To contribute toward creating a sustainable future we request a little more of our guests than most other restaurants," she says in a list of her restaurant's policies that is pinned on the door to the eatery.

This list includes finishing all dishes ordered which are organic and free of gluten, dairy, sugar and eggs and the chef and her staff tell people who don't clear their plates to choose another restaurant next time.

"Finishing your meal requires that everything is eaten except lemon slices, gari (sushi ginger) and wasabi," says the menu.

"Please also note that vegetables and salad on the side are NOT decorations; they are part of the meal too."

The link is here and I thank Mein Lindenbaum for the pointer. 

Of course one economic effect is to discourage diners from ordering more food.  That means, ceteris paribus, higher prices.  If you wish to cast a non-crazy gloss on this, think of it as one way to signal and precommit to higher quality!  Have any of you eaten there?

Ian Tindale June 14, 2010 at 2:36 am

Alternatively, it gives permission to serve slightly less food at a hitherto accepted price.

nice strategy June 14, 2010 at 3:20 am

“her staff tell people who don’t clear their plates to choose another restaurant next time”

&*^% that noise, how very arrogant and obnoxious. I would never eat at this establishment. You aren’t allowed to dislike something they serve without paying a penalty and being scolded. You aren’t allowed to have a smaller appetite than their service anticipates, which is probably on the small size for some patrons. This is not a place to try something you’ve never eaten before, that’s for sure.

If they really cared about conserving food they’d offer different size portions. Instead, they choose to act like Mommy just sent up to your room without dessert because overcooked broccoli smells like vomit. My solution to this at age 10 was to scoop the offending items onto my napkin and dispose of them quietly.

So I predict they’ll end up with a lot of food on the floor. And I hope they go out of business. The only thing worse than a nanny state are nanny businesses.

Factory June 14, 2010 at 4:03 am

I hope they offer doggie bags, which is what I end up doing for most food in restaurants that serve large portions.

Sean June 14, 2010 at 5:17 am

Fascinating tactic. I think it could be very successful. I’m not well versed enough in economics to categorize this, but it strikes me as similar to ‘planet friendly’ price signaling, charging higher prices for products of dubious ‘green’ value so the consumer can assuage guilt or feel superior. This is a large and moneyed segment of the population. The restaurant has made their policy quite clear, so I doubt it is often enforced. By creating a sense of exclusivity, excluding the ‘bad people’, the good guys can eat in like-minded peace. Brilliant.

Sean June 14, 2010 at 6:15 am

I suspect this would work best for early adopters, as it becomes more widespread (which I think likely) the exclusivity aspect diminishes and there might be a backlash against the blatant paternalism. This has parallels with the famous Israeli day-care experiment, pay more to banish the guilt, except in this case they ask violators not to return. Still, this might be the best course. The restaurant is signaling that they are supposedly willing to forgo future custom (profit) to uphold a moral stance, the opposite of the greedy corporations hell bent on destroying the Earth, as perceived by their target segment. Were the restaurant to take a nose-dive into the red, I suspect the moral high ground would be abandoned.

christine June 14, 2010 at 9:40 am

I know of a few not at all exclusive sushi places in not very big town North America that have a similar policy – they charge extra for leaving things unfinished rather than discounting (yes I know that theoretically these are the same policy, but psychologically they may not be). But they’re sushi places. You can order what you want in small servings, and can always order more later on if you feel like it, so not sure it’s quite as awful a policy as it would be in, say, an Italian restaurant.

Andrey June 14, 2010 at 11:03 am

@Jun

“Right now restaurants have an incentive to serve large portions to justify high prices, but if patrons come in expecting to clean their plates, they will demand reasonable portion sizes, reducing waste and cutting food costs for the restaurant.”
If customers do not (or cannot) demand smaller portion for lower price right now, what makes you think that they will do so when they will be scolded for not finishing the meal?

I hope that it will never become a social norm, but it looks like it might spread just like othe guilt-based business ideas.

Next Big Thing: personal “green” Overlord for hire. With 100% organic whip.

mobile June 14, 2010 at 11:51 am

Haven’t been there, but I’ve been to the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, which also offers a substantial discount to diners that finish their meal.

Koren June 14, 2010 at 12:50 pm

This logic is really questionable. While I consider food waste to be a legitimate environmental and social concern, guilting restaurant patrons into finishing their plate does nothing to address the issue. Most food waste occurs at the production and processing level rather than by individual consumers. If the restaurant was truly concerned with minimizing their food waste, might composting be a more effective remedy?

agnostic June 14, 2010 at 1:36 pm

This will test whether do-gooders want to signal their individual quality — “I’m so eco-friendly that I clean my plate no matter what the policy may be” — or their devotion to paternalism in humanity’s greater interest — “If only there were more businesses like this one, even the blind fools who waste food will be forced to stop raping Mother Earth.”

My hunch is that the typical person who blabs about eco-friendliness is just trying to show off individual qualities, or perhaps display group membership badges, which require the act be voluntary in either case. If it’s forced, they have no way to signal that they stand apart from the unwashed masses.

kranky kritter June 14, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Sounds like a great place to go if your reason for dining out is to pass a moral judgement test of the chef/proprietor.

Since I dine out to relax and to enjoy myself, as a refuge from worldly stress, it’s a bad fit for me. When I finish dining I do want feel physically full and satisfied. Not morally full, or smug, as someone else called it.

davr June 15, 2010 at 2:42 am

I don’t like Japanese food. I don’t like being told how much I should eat. I hate food wasting. I almost always eat everything on my plate. I grew up during the tail end of the depression. We did not waste. I would never eat at a place like this.

I’m going to recommend your site to some other sites I blog on. Thank you.

davr

Nikki June 17, 2010 at 9:11 pm

I don’t see how this can possibly be interpreted as signalling higher quality. If the food were good, they wouldn’t need to provide an economic incentive to finish it. This policy screams, “our food is disgusting, so leaving part of it on the plate is a privilege for which you’ll have to pay.”

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