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The restaurant industry offers a wide range of pricing options. Diners can grab a meal for $5 or so at a fast food joint, or if they prefer to sit down and be served, they might spend around $20 in a fast casual restaurant or twice that in a fancier establishment. Or, they could spend literally hundreds or thousands of dollars on a single meal that promises to do far more than fill their stomachs.

Dining booth in a restaurantAt the Ithaa Underseas Restaurant in the Maldives for example, consumers pay an average of $500 per meal to take one of the 18 seats available each night and eat in an underwater tunnel, with tropical fish and sharks swimming all around them. At Kitcho in Kyoto, Japan, the formal tea ceremony surrounding the meal will set diners back about $600 per person. The Hard Rock Café in Ibiza, Spain, hosts the restaurant Sublimotion, which features virtual reality, high-tech projections, and some great food while charging about $1900 per diner.

As these examples indicate, the key to the high prices is the experience, not just the food. The restaurants understand that diners are coming for an incomparable and exclusive experience, so most of them schedule their reservations with great care. Diners rarely see one another, or if they do, they can clearly sense that they are part of an elite, small group. For example, Alinea in Chicago is relatively large, with 64 seats in the restaurant, but it staggers reservations every 15 minutes and only allows parties of two, four, or six, so that the dining room never feels crowded.

But that’s not to say that the food isn’t remarkable. These restaurants pride themselves on their creative, innovative, and distinctive menus. Le Meurice in Paris and The Restaurant at Meadowood in California both rely on seasonal options to design their constantly changing menus. Doing so means that they remain constantly at the cutting edge of cooking and ensure that the food they serve is fresh.

The exclusivity and high-end promises of these restaurants clearly support their high prices, and no one seems to be complaining too much. Even for diners willing to spend thousands on a meal, the first hurdle is even getting a reservation. Nearly all of these restaurants recommend seeking reservations literally months in advance. There’s nothing fast about this kind of food.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What kind of pricing tactic do these high-end restaurants apply?
  2. Why does this pricing tactic work in these cases?

 Source: Jackie Strause, “Would You Pay $1900 for Dinner? World’s Most Expensive Restaurants,” Yahoo Travel, November 6, 2015