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General Discussion 65

Restaurant Biz: Optional Up-Charges for Higher Quality Alternatives

Jim Leff | Jan 2, 201411:29 AM

I have a friend who helps run a suburban shopping-strip Italian restaurant/pizzeria. It's a family place, nothing fancy, and they also serve really great beer. The guy's into great food and beer, but the place uses this awful canned red sauce, because economics won't allow them to make it from scratch. The main owner is perfectly happy with this sauce - he's not about quality, it's more about status quo. But I know it quietly eats away at my friend to have to serve this sauce.

I'm going to propose an idea to him, but while it seems completely viable to me, my spidey sense tells me I'm missing a problem (compounded by the fact that just about no one does what I'm proposing). Can you help suss out the downside?

Here's the email I wrote (but didn't send yet):

I understand the economics of family Italian restaurants. It's impossible to make everything from scratch, even if you want to. You'd need to charge more than customers would pay. If you made really great from-scratch marinara, you'd need to raise prices. It's risky! But I thought of a way to sneak into it with no risk.

You know how some diners let you order real maple syrup for an extra buck? How about an option to add on "super-charged marinara" (to dishes, pasta, pizza, dipping for apps, etc) for an extra $3 or $4? It'd work like any other up-charged side.

Customers who like the regular sauce won't have to change a thing. But you'd be able to please customers who do care about the diff, so you'd be more versatile. The up-charges would be some nice income (it adds up!).'d have some really good sauce, which would be closer to the way I know you'd like to do it.

It's the same as what you're doing in the beer bar: offering Coors, plus an option for expensive beer for those who care. Choice is good!

If this worked, you could also maybe charge for super-charged mozz and other stuff. Customers (and your partner!) couldn't complain, because the guts of the restaurant wouldn't change. Unless, that is, if everybody starts up-paying for premium stuff. If that happened, you'd have lots of interesting options in terms of more creative and higher-quality choices.

I don't see any downside. This would guarantee at least some extra income, and allow you to please a wider variety of customers, and give the business a lot more versatility going forward.

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