Adventures in Food, England Edition
No, it's not that I've had bad food. Far from it! I know this isn't a food blog, but I wanted to briefly discuss two blog-worthy experiences.
Conveyor Belt Sushi
First, I ate sushi off of a conveyor belt tonight. Well, not directly off the belt. But I ate at an outpost of the UK chain Yo! Sushi, where sushi and other dishes travel around a conveyor belt in covered dishes. You just reach forward and take what you want. The plates (and their prices) are color coded, a visual control of sorts. But it's often hard to see what's underneath the clear domes if it's a hot/warm dish, as steam fogs the clear bubble lid. At the end of the meal, they count up your plates and you pay. It was the tastiest conveyor belt I've ever been around.
One of the newspapers had a story about how some of the locations aren't as clean as they should be. I guess I was seduced by the automation! Hey, it's a trap that many factories and hospitals fall into, so why should I be immune, this one time? Should I have been concerned about cleanliness or food safety? Call me brave. I figured they would “clean up their act” after the news stories. I did wish there was a clearer visual indicator of how long the food had been on the conveyor belt.
“Pay What You Think The Meal is Worth”
I can't find a website for them, but I ate (a few weeks back) at a restaurant called “easyCurry” (it's probably a trademark infringement suit waiting to happen… calling easyJet, they are using the same font as you in their logo).
They have a unique concept. You pay £5 ($10 US) to get in, an “admission fee,” they call it. Then you order one starter, one main, one veggie side, and rice or naan (and ice cream if you want it…. I have some willpower, I said no to that). You get charged normal prices for drinks, but then at the end you “pay what you think the meal is worth”. Cash only.
I paid another £10 total at the end of the meal. I had one beer ( £2.65). The £10 included my tip, but its unclear how they work that out with the staff (which is a big issue over here right now). The food was OK. I figured £15 wasn't outrageous for a full meal with a beer. I wonder if their average take is better than if they charged normal prices? How many people would feel shamed by walking out without paying more? This is a new restaurant… and maybe a risky strategy in a down economy. At least it isn't “all you can eat,” for their sake.
Has anyone else heard of a restaurant (or any business) a pricing concept like this? I guess it's the clearest illustration of “value is defined by the customer” that I've seen in a long time.