Just how do you judge the value that you’re getting at a restaurant?

Although you’re getting a product from a restaurant, restaurants are very much in the service sector and therefore “value” is judged largely on service criteria which are generally a little peculiar.

For example, whilst you can obviously tell that, say, a brick is of higher quality than another brick at the same price through such things as the material used, how well it’s finished, and so on, for services it’s often the case that people will value a more expensive “product” more simply because it is more expensive. Thus, when people are considering two restaurants that seem otherwise similar they may well go to the one with the higher prices on the basis that they’re getting better quality, at least until they’ve had the chance to actually try out the offering.

In France, the two way pull between people wanting to get good value whilst they also get good food has a peculiar effect. Typically you’ll see extremely low “menu” prices which are there to pull in the customers yet when they get inside, anything deviating at all from that menu can result in a total bill that’s substantially more than the menu price. Locally we find that people assume that lowish prices are low simply because the restaurant is using pre-heated food (very common locally) so if they want a decent meal they avoid anywhere with prices that seem “too low” which, of course, has the effect that quite ordinary restaurants end up having to charge what would be very much over the top prices elsewhere just to indicate that they are cooking the food fresh.

Ironically, those high prices don’t produce the high level of service that you’d expect elsewhere so in practice it’s actually quite poor value on offer in comparison to comparable restaurants elsewhere. Having said that, low service levels are generally the norm in France so in comparison to other comparable French businesses they’re fine.

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