Quality vs. Quantity

So I am perplexed with a question that I would like honest answers to. The dilemma for me is, would you be willing to pay for something that you normally come to expect for free, if the paid version was of higher quality than something that could be offered for free. Example, bread offered at an Italian restaurant, if the restaurant could offer a higher quality bread than could be offered for free? Or if a Mexican restaurant could offer fresh hand-made corn and flour tortillas, have to charge a small fee to cover the cost of said items. At Iguana we made the decision before we opened to make a great tasting, high-quality queso dip, that we would charge for, in lieu of giving away a cheaper, watered down version that some people choose to offer at other establishments.  Or would you rather see this cost built into the price of the entrée already, causing them to be higher priced, themselves, but some people may wish to have these items, and some folks may wish to not have Them however everyone is paying for them. So is it acceptable to charge a nominal fee to cover this cost?

As I stated in the beginning of this post, I want your completely honest opinion.

A. Charge a little for a higher quality product.

B. Build the price of the higher quality item into the entree cost

C. Only charge for the higher quality item and give the cheaper version away for free

Not to worry what I think, but want to know if this is a direction to go. Thanks for the help.

And that’s My rant.



~ by chefrp on 02.23.10.

14 Responses to “Quality vs. Quantity”

  1. Chef –

    I think you guys have it nailed down perfectly right now, but not really in the queso, but the salsa. You give away a cheaper version of your salsa (which is still my favorite one), but you offer a variety of premium salsa’s at a low price. This keeps people from taking advantage of getting refill after refill of high quality salsa for free, when it costs the place money.

    Your queso is in the same boat. We have no problem paying what you ask for queso, and will continue to do so, but if you were to build the cost of the queso into the entree and give it for free, you’re risking people taking advantage of your generocity.

    Thus my answer is option C.

  2. This answer will vary between clients, and even vary with the same client in different contexts. For example I will often pay for a better version of an iPhone App. Chips, salsa, & queso is entirely different for me.

    I’ve become so accustomed to getting free chips/salsa/queso when I sit down at a Mexican restaurant I never think about paying for them. When a restaurant does not offer them complimentary I usually don’t think about ordering them. In my psyche its usually just a nice to enjoy because its there immediately.

    On the flip side I think offering a cheap free version of queso could serve as a tremendous sales pitch for the “good stuff”. If a server said to me “if you like queso Ryan has an amazing queso appetizer he’s promoting right now” I would certainly be inclined to order it. This gets the word out, and builds brand loyalty. If I come to Iquana because I trust you as a chef, and you have some queso you want me to know about I’m going to go for it.

    Client feels taken care of (free queso + option for something the chef is going to stand behind to make it worth your coin), feels they enjoyed a more personal dining experience, and is happy to spend more money in the process.

  3. The dilemma here is set up by expectations. Too many people think an Italian restaurant should automatically bring you bread, same as a Mexican restaurant should automatically bring out the chips and salsa and queso. But that’s a national chain mentality.

    Your queso is great and well worth paying for. Same at Mama Roja and a few other spots around town. If somebody complains, the waiter can say, “Well, we do a really good queso that actually costs money to make and not a watery ‘cheese’ sauce.”

    If you want to give away a cheaper version for free, that’s up to you, but I wouldn’t want to be the guy to explain the difference between the “good” and “bad” cheese dip. I don’t think your high standards could stomach putting out a lower-quality substitute.

    I know pleasing the customer is part of your job, but I also think you cultivate the clientele you deserve. In the case of Iguana, some people are going to balk at paying for queso, the same way they don’t want to pay more for your tacos than the ones they get at Taco Bell. But you’re never going to please those people, because they’re not looking for good food. They’re looking for cheap food.

    I’d rather go someplace that charges me for something worth having than giving me for free something I’d rather not eat.

  4. Long post short… I like to get things ala carte, it comes down to me choosing cheese or guacamole or whatever. It’s how Rococo does it too & I like having the options.

    BUT, there are times I crave that cheap cheese from Los Vaqueros in MWC. 🙂

  5. I am of a similar opinion as elwelleats. The question is what kind of customer are you courting/marketing? It seems to me that you take pride in creating great food; therefor, you desire a customer that appreciates those efforts. Tailor your menu to such customers.

  6. I don’t think you have to do things just because everyone else does. It seem to me Oklahoma tex-mex is the only place that has free queso. Iguana has the best salsa and that’s one reason I go there. Other places have free queso and I eat way too much of it but their salsa lacks a lot. So for me it’s a choice between great salsa and free “cheese sauce”

    That being said I’ve paid for your Queso before and it’s probably not something I’d do very often just based on costs. I doubt in the end offering something free would add enough customers to offset the cost, and I don’t want increased cost of an entre’

  7. It is perfectly acceptable to charge for a higher quality product. There is a clear difference between the queso Iguana offers and the queso that other restaurants provide. We love Iguana’s queso and have never thought twice about ordering it just because it costs extra.

    I also wouldn’t recommend offering a free, watered-down version. In my opinion that cheapens the brand and could prevent some customers from ordering the higher end queso. Even worse, it could give first-time customers a negative impression and cause them to think that the entrees are made with cheap ingredients.

  8. I have no problem paying for something to receive better quality. As Ellwelleats said it’s about expectations. When I go to certain restaurants (like Iguana) I expect quality over quantity. Not that the quantity is lacking, just the emphasis is on quality. The price is set relative to the quality (surprisingly affordable).

    I would not alter the affordable price of the entrees to provide free “higher quality” queso. That’s not fair to customers who are watching what they eat. They shouldn’t have to pay more for their entree when they don’t eat the chips & queso.

    In other words, I wouldn’t change a thing. Just make @pamgutel pay double. #justsayin

  9. Never sacrifice your quality for quantity. Don’t cater to the wrong crowd. McDonald’s already has that niche covered.

  10. Offering crap food (C) should never be an option for you, I don’t care how free it is. I’m floored every time I have Iguana’s basic salsa because it is stupid good and is a treat to have for free.

    I prefer A. It makes the most sense. Get what you pay for, no trickery needed.

  11. As someone who just returned from lunch at Iguana, and as an ex-hospitality guy, I’ll wade in here. Personally, I’d rather see the quality built into the overhead. I can understand the desire to make everything a la carte (my last gig was a high end steakhouse), but that misses an opportunity to make a uniform impression on everyone regardless of their degree of participation in the dining experience.

    Case in point, I worked at a restaurant in NYC that is synonymous with hospitality. That restaurant had a very lively bar scene, and served the BEST warm bar mix. I’ll guarantee it was a loss leader by itself, but it set the tone for the restaurant’s level of quality and level of care for the guest. Could you get more than nuts at the bar? Heck, yes, you could get the entire menu at the bar. That being said, the “extras” take the experience into another realm, and I question whether you’d want anyone to experience your restaurant without participating with those “ground level” extras.

  12. I love both the free salsa and your specialty salsas at Iguana. The Coral Snake Salsa I do not hesitate to pay for it is my favorite. I also love the Queso Fondido. I am probably the one person who understands how you feel as a home cheese maker. I think what you are doing right now caters to both the customers who are willing to pay extra for better and those who aren’t (though I think the latter are seriously missing out)

  13. While the expectation in this area is to get both complimentary queso and salsa, I’d rather pay for something that is higher quality than be given something that may not be on par with the rest of the meal. If the quality variation is that much different it may put me off and may give me the impression that the pay-for salsa isn’t worth it. My wife and I gladly pay for queso every time we dine at Iguana because we love it and are (obviously) willing to pay for a quality product.

    Also, I dislike other’s complimentary items being subsidized into my food. If I’m lactose intolerant I won’t eat the queso, but I’ll be paying for it. So while trying to make a great impression on everyone by offering quality complimentary queso, you could’ve put someone off by them noticing the price increase and now complimentary queso.

    The tl;dr of it is: Option A, I’m perfectly happy with it being a a la carte option only.

  14. I strongly dislike the watered down generic cheese most places serve and tend to avoid it but it’s really a matter of preference of palette. You’ll have people that like both. It’s up to you Ryan to decide what you want your restaurant to stand for. You’ll get criticized both ways…I know..I’m NO help at all right?

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