Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What are some examples of restaurants using psychology to manipulate our spending and eating habits? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
One of the most interesting ones that I’ve encountered is Ikea (yes, the furniture store). While you don’t think of them as a restaurant in the traditional sense, they have a quick-serve restaurant, as well as their Swedish food market downstairs. I can speak about this with knowledge because I’ve run one of their foodservice operations. They are using their foodservice department to reinforce their low price profile on items in the rest of the store, even if it means selling food items at a loss. I’ll break it down.
You have no idea how much a couch costs. You see one you like for $599. Is that a good price? You have no idea because you’ve never bought a couch before. But, you can get a full meal that’s only $3.99. You do know that food is much more expensive elsewhere. Then, on the way out, you see that they havehot dogs for 50 cents, as well as soda and cinnamon buns. Why do they have American items at the Swedish grocery store? Because you can identify with those items. We can pretty much agree that 50 cents is the best price you will find for a hot dog anywhere.
Their policy is to be the absolute lowest price on that item within a 30 mile radius, even if it means selling at a loss. They’re reinforcing the low-price profile of the store. So, they take a hit on the food, but just sold you $1,000 in furniture. It’s the same thing other stores do with loss leaders to get you in the door, but I thought it was interesting to use food to sell furniture and housewares.