Markets in everything: I’ll have what he ordered

There is now a Japanese cafe which serves you what the last person ordered; similarly the next person receives what you order.

Here is a list of their rules.  No, you can't order twice in a row and yes, you pay for what you order for the next person, not for what you get.


Sounds like it's modeled on the protocol of a poetry circle. The group improvises a poem. Each person contributes a stanza, one after the other around the circle, in real time. Your stanza must relate to the one that came before you. You can read about such poetry circles in Eike Ikegami, Bonds of Civility: Aesthetic Networks and the Political Origins of Japanese Culture (Cambridge 2006), which I have reviewed. It was the most interesting book I read in 2006.

jimi: because it's an awesome experience. Duh.

I suspect they go through a lot of very small pieces of pie...

I'd order the poisonous-if-made-wrong blowfish from that old episode of the Simpsons. That episode was dull city.

So as soon as the first person orders, their is no guesswork for the kitchen.

I doubt this restaurant would last very long. Sure, one visit as a novelty. But why go back a second time?

Given that one does not get what one pays for, what is the incentive for ordering anything but the cheapest option on the menu? In other words, either everything is priced the same, or it is very rare for the non-cheapest menu item to be ordered.


I don't buy the gambling argument. Imagine a poker game where you pay $10 to get in and are guaranteed that you will walk out with nothing more or less. Now we'll offer you to join a poker game for $20, again without winning or losing anything additional, to make it more "exciting" because there's a higher buy-in, but you're playing the same people. ... I don't see it.

One reason to not buy the cheapest thing is to 'play a joke' on the next person. "I can't imagine anyone in their right mind eating that. I'll buy it for the next joker." Course, if that's the equilibrium, it's what you get too, so you'd better hope jokers are in the minority (aka low randomization probability).

There are also still dates/contacts/etc. to impress with your largess, so you offer the next diner the prime rib. So you find out when the business accounts show up and come in the middle of them.

I wonder how they handle food allergies and religious or other food restrictions (eg the vegan who walks in after my prime rib guy).

I actually have a hard time believing something like this has no chance at all. Sure that might seem like the obvious first impression, but when you think about it, the premise is so crazy that it can actually work. People love being absolute jerks to their friends or co-workers. Simply order something they don't like and watch the fun ensue. This would also keep people coming back for a "revenge-shot" at someone who ordered for them before.

People seem to be hung up on everyone ordering the cheapest thing on the menu, but that seems unlikely to happen in a large group. Sure their market may be somewhat unsteady, but there's still potential for it to work. Think of all of the other gimmicky businesses that took a shot and turned out huge. Take Build-A-Bear for example. They started their business hoping that the novelty of having a stuffed animal you made yourself outweigh the fact that you are paying money to do work that they didn't have to. Sometimes the novelty is all the consumer needs. Be it playing God with a stuffed animal or being able to be a complete jerk to your friend.

Reminds me of

Comments for this post are closed