Bait-and-switch will irk casual diners

Articles
October 27, 2009

Bait-and-switch will irk casual diners

There won’t be a federal bailout of America’s casual dining segment if their sly, penny-pinching ways chase consumers from their tables.

There won’t be a federal bailout of America’s casual dining segment if their sly, penny-pinching ways chase consumers from their tables. What they’re doing undercuts their reason for being in the marketplace at all. 

Contrary to their premise of providing a sit-down family eating experience at a value price, casual restaurants are promoting low-cost meals but upping the prices of common accompaniments to the core order – side dishes, desserts and bar beverages, according to the 2009 Intellaprice study of 14 casual-dining chains in 21 markets.

For the record, menu pricing showed prices of side dishes rose by eight percent, desserts seven percent, bar beverages up nearly two percent, along with a two percent bump up in dinner entrees, Intellaprice reported. While ads lure diners in with value-priced meals, the potential sticker shock that ensues can unnerve people who go there in the first place because they are trying to stay within a budget.

At SupermarketGuru.com, we understand the casual eateries are squeezed by fast-feeders stepping up with Angus burgers, by better tiers of restaurants offering price fixe specials, and supermarkets purveying prepared foods. The way they can win, however, is most definitely not by mimicking the U.S. automotive industry. They cannot risk luring people in with a value promise, and then hitting them with so many extras that they lose their appetite for coming back.

By doing so, they break the trust they’ve built with patrons – a square meal for a fair price – that has so far kept them in favor with families. After all, it’s not that their cooking, ambience, or themes are so special. We urge casual eateries to solidify their distinct identity of value, perhaps with their own all-inclusive price meals that leave no room for surprises.