Why Are Restaurant Dinners Pricier Than Lunch?

Over at Quora, restaurateur Jonas M. Luster explains why he charges more for items at dinner than at lunch:

  • Lunch isn’t prepared and served by my A-team. Many times waiters and cooks have to prove themselves during lunch before being allowed on the dinner line. This means I pay less in payroll.
  • Lunch doesn’t usually serve a full menu. The menu is optimized for faster production and oftentimes smaller portioned. Smaller menu means less storage, smaller dishes mean less storage, and faster turnaround means less secondary storage costs (hot/warm holding, etc.)
  • Lunch diners spend an average of 45 minutes from entry to exit, dinner guests take over twice as long. This means faster turnaround during lunch hours, which either means more covers or less staff needed. Both saves me money.
  • Lunch guests don’t want/need candles and expensive bottles of water. They want food. We cater to this by dropping down to the bare bone of fine dining hospitality, removing fluff.

Last, but not least, lunch is a competitive market. We compete with in-house cafeterias, the dirty water hot dog cart, chain restaurants, and delivery businesses.

More answers here.

5 thoughts on “Why Are Restaurant Dinners Pricier Than Lunch?”

  1. Well, I am glad that my book Freedomnomics mentions a couple of those explanations (I don’t have the one about the A-team). The competition explanation doesn’t seem right. You can see this phenomenon in DC with a whole row of restaurants right next to each other. Lunch might compete with “in-house cafeterias, the dirty water hot dog cart, chain restaurants, and delivery businesses,” but for dinner you are also less likely to eat right near where you work or live.

  2. I guess this proves the economic law that, while there is no such thing as a free lunch, there is such a thing as a cheap lunch.

  3. @John – and that’s precisely why lunch is cheaper. Lunch is nourishment, people don’t really care much about the other aspects of hospitality (such as comfort and seeing and being seen). That increases our competition from like operations to everyone who sells a sammich or burger. At dinner we set ourselves apart with what we do best – “restore” (restaurant, from “restaurer”, French) and pamper…

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