July 2, 2011
Listen here. Aired on Marketplace Money over the 4th of July weekend.
This piece grew out of my experience at two chain restaurants back in March. Both restaurants were at an airport, and neither display menu contained any price information. I'd never experienced anything like it. How was I meant to make a choice of venue without knowing the price of the food? The chain, HMS Host, told me it simply did not want to re-print its display menus every time commodity prices changed, forcing a change in the price of ingredients. But restaurant consultant Tom Pirko says restaurants are being crafty: the less clear prices are, the likelier it is customers will spend more. 'Unclear' can take many forms, as you'll hear in the piece. California seems to be the capital of creative restaurant pricing (see coffee prices on menu at left).