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Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Baffling Buffet Effect

How do you react in a buffet? What do you feel like doing when your sense of smell and sight are allured or literally challenged with a vast array of gastronomic delights within the easy reach of your hands and mouth? Think about it as I share my own experiences.

Just last night I went for a dinner with a few friends and my wife to celebrate her birthday at Masala Zone, an Indian restaurant at Covent Garden. Among the wide range of options, pretty much certainly, we opted for a ‘grand chicken thali’ and a ‘prawn thali’. For those not aware with the concept of ‘thali’ – it is a combination of different food items served in small steel bowls on a big tray or ‘thali’ as it is termed in Hindi. I would confess that I eat first with my eyes – so I prefer to see a sizeable quantity of food on my plate to stir up my appetite. So the usually small size of items presented on thali doesn’t enlighten me readily and I always become skeptic at first whether it would be enough to fill me up. However this initial reaction of mine is almost always proved wrong by the time I finish eating a thali. A little of this, a little bit of that and the whole excitement of having the option to shower the taste buds with so many different culinary delights always leaves me in a state unable to move or breathe.
Similarly with buffet, when I stand in the queue eagerly anticipating the items that will fill up the food mountain on my plate, I almost always end up not being able to eat anything properly. I realise that buffet food arrangements overwhelm me up front and fills my stomach with the ‘abundance of options’ and the ‘visual satisfaction factors’ even before a single portion of food travels from my plate to my stomach – such is the paradox of a thali or a buffet. More importantly even if the price of a buffet is fixed slightly higher – I seem to be content about the fact that so many different food items are up for trying so the premium price is justified. Interestingly what I end up eating could be worth less than what I actually pay – but such is the buffet effect that as a customer I really don’t mind paying the extra – I don’t even realise it while I eat.
So how do you apply the ‘buffet effect’ in your business? Do customers always prefer a multitude of options or does it always confuse them? Certainly customers prefer having a lot of options to choose from but keep in mind that it is just to that level when the array of options doesn’t confuse them or defuses their purchase intentions.

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