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Business - Written by on Monday, March 9, 2009 15:08 - 0 Comments

How’s your meal?

Participatory pricing is gaining steam in some Canadian restaurants. After successful use of the concept in some European restaurants, business owners in Canada are putting the concept to the test.

For anyone not familiar with the idea, it is, simply put, “pay-what-you-want” dining. (Radiohead recently applied the concept [not for food, of course], allowing fans to decide what to pay for their new album). At the end of the meal the customer decides how much it was worth, and pays accordingly.

Menus at Zesty’s Deli in Guelph, Ontario list a question mark beside items instead of a dollar figure. Tony Salamone, owner of Zesty’s says, “I have great faith in the people of Guelph.” The participatory pricing approach could clearly go a long way in keeping businesses honest, but the benefits aren’t one-way. For sure, customers win when they are empowered by the policy. At the same time, honest, and good quality businesses will win too - having customers reflect appreciation in the prices they choose to pay.

The owners of Barrie, Ontario restaurant Oscar’s echo Salamone’s message, “We are so confident in our kitchen and the food that we put out. And we are confident in our front of the house staff, our service is some of the best in the city.” Their message emphasizes the fact that business owners who apply participatory pricing aren’t operating charities – they believe that they will be more successful when they turn the price-setting power over to the consumer.

The first pay-what-you-want restaurant was the international, UK-based chain, Little Bay. According to reports, Little Bay is actually enjoying increased revenue since giving customers the power to decide what meals are worth.

More power to the consumer and an imperative to operate honestly for businesses, with increased revenue for those offering the best food and experience - participatory pricing is win-win.

I’d be interested to learn of experiences others have had with participatory pricing and in which industries you think it’ll have the greatest impact.

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