Is Toast the Next Big Thing?

The Lempert Report
April 25, 2014

Artisanal Toast in San francisco is starting to pick up.

Ok so you may have gotten used to the idea of paying around $4 for your morning cup of coffee, but what about $4 for a simple slice of toast?  Could it ever be that good?!  Apparently in San Francisco it is! According to an article in Venture Beat, cafes like The Mill are creating a new trend for high priced toast, or as they call it “artisanal toast”. So, does this mean our perceptions of quality and experience can be influenced by slapping on a somewhat meaningless label like "artisanal"?!. 

In 2008, California Institute of Technology and Stanford University reported on results of a study that examined the relationship between the price tag on wine and consumers' perception of taste. Researchers scanned the brains of subjects while they sampled five different wines priced at $5, $10, $35, $45, and $90.  But guess what? Unknown to the subjects there weren’t 5 different wines at all. The $10 wine and the $90 wine were both from the ten dollar bottle! Despite the trickery, subjects consistently reported the $90 bottle to be superior, and scans of their brain confirmed this showing more activity when they were sampling the perceived superior wine. 

This is not to diminish the validity of a luxury food experience. No doubt many experiences are worth the expense, but for supermarkets and restaurants, it may be wise to consider maintaining consumer trust and loyalty when presenting these higher priced items. If the product is worth the cost, great! But inflating a price based on manufactured hype and new “trends”, when the quality is not valid will either alienate consumers without expendable income or leave customers feeling conned. 

Again, there’s no harm in selling luxury foods, but always give customers the "real" reasons these products are special. Forget trendy language and labels that have no true definition. Four dollars is a lot to pay for a piece of toast, so what is about the experience that makes it worth the price?