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Dessert tray with lots of options for the consumer

I was listening to NPR on decision making sourced from Answers.com.  Dr. Rangel’s studies include why some people have more self-control than others in two important categories: eating and spending.

Dr. Rangel set out to study if presenting food in a certain way would change the customer’s perception of value and how much they were willing to pay for the food.  The study involved Cal Tech undergraduates who were very hungry during this trial. The students were given money to purchase desserts from information shown in photos or texts, then presented desserts offered on an actual tray.  (By the way, the food on the tray looked exactly like the food in the text and the pictures.)  What was surprising was the students were willing to pay about 50 percent more for the real food that was in front of them (according to this download-able pdf file from American Economic Review), but were only willing to pay a lower amount for the food in the pictures and the texts. Armed with this data one would wonder why restaurants spend so much money on beautiful photos and texts when all they need is to bring out the dessert tray!

In an industry where tips are often based on the price of the meal, you would think that servers would always offer the most expensive items. My experience leads me to believe that this isn’t necessarily the case. There are several things that stand in the way, the biggest thing is the server’s attitude or lack of selling skills. If the customer asks, what’s good on the menu the server is often reluctant to offer the most expensive item. Actually this makes sense; the server doesn’t have enough information to offer an opinion.  If the server asks, what type of food do you like, the game has changed. The customer is saying, tell me what’s best for me.

When it comes to dessert there are two objections on the part of the server.

“It takes too much time to bring out the dessert tray.” This is a common complaint.

“I heard the customer say, ‘I’m so full, I couldn’t eat another thing.'”  I guess the server missed  the obesity studies ranking the United States the fattest of all the nations. It appears we always have room for dessert, especially if it’s put in front of us.

How about the server’s attitude and preconceived ideas about the customer‘s spending habits?  “I wouldn’t spend that much, so why would the customer? For the most part, this is pure conjecture on the server’s part.

Isn’t it good customer service to offer the customer the best? Isn’t the customer worth the best? If the customer finds the product too expensive, do they find the server offensive? Personally, I would be more likely to feel offended if  I was  offered the cheapest.  As for the server,  it’s easier to trade down then it is to trade up.

Could  it be the  customer spends  money because they want to and they can?  Again we’re back to getting your customer to experience the product.  I just returned from a car show where all convertible tops were down, doors open, and the radios blaring.   What an invitation!

Is the restaurant business different than other businesses? Probably not. The literature suggests that customers tip more when they like the server.  Not much of a surprise is it?  On the other hand, if the customer doesn’t like the server or the sales associate, they are not likely to buy.

If the food is really lousy, it’s hard for the server to make the customer feel better by their extra efforts; unless they’re getting the customer an antacid.  If the food is good but not great and the server goes out of his or her way to attend to the customer, the tip will probably be good.  The customer is probably thinking the server is doing their best and the mediocre food isn’t their fault. Again it’s all about empathy.

This all goes back to getting your customer to taste the product, see the product and try it out.  In other words, getting your product in the hands of your customer.

Let the customer taste the product before they buy.  They do in Ben and Jerry’s. Allowing the customer to taste the product creates obligation on the customer’s part.  You’ve heard the phrase, “One good turn deserves another.”

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