Eat In, Take Out: How Restaurants Get It Wrong

Both as a professional marketer and as a restaurant patron, I’m a little puzzled by the apparent marketing strategy (or lack thereof!) of some of the restaurants I’ve been frequenting during my lunch hour recently. There are two very good family-owned Japanese restaurants around the corner from our offices. Both offer lunch specials, but neither allows the customer to order the lunch special to go; instead, the special prices apply only to eat-in diners. If you opt to take out a lunch special, you can expect to pay the full dinner price – nearly $7 or $8 more than the lunch price!

If there were a significant cost differential, I could understand this discrepancy. I am even willing to pay a slightly higher price to order my food to go. But I can’t understand why take-out customers should be forced to pay nearly $10 more than dine-in customers. My favorite sushi place, Sushi Sho on Montana, offers lunch specials for dine-in or take-out, both at the same price until 2 PM. I see no reason why other restaurants can’t follow suit to better accommodate their customers.

As a marketer, I know that so much of the struggle for a restaurant is to simply get new customers in the door. Why a restaurant would allow a new customer to walk out rather than simply lowering its prices for take-out specials is beyond me!

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