The Matt Yglesias take on restaurant decline

Matt writes:

Imagine some diners are, by temperament, venturesome while others are regulars. Over the long term, the best business strategy is to appeal to regulars since they offer a stable client base. But when a restaurant is new, it by definition lacks regulars and needs to appeal to venturesome diners both to get an initial wave of customers and also to attract “buzz” and get the temperamental regulars in the door. Over time, a successful restaurant will attempt to switch and become more a place for regulars, which means that venturesome diners will come to like it less. At the same time, alienating venturesome foodies is very low cost because being venturesome they would perceive their own growing familiarity with the food as declining quality one way or the other.

Beautiful woman, by suneko

Beautiful woman, by suneko

This is not at all far from my basic theory, though Matt seems to imply it is. In An Economist Gets Lunch I stress how the cycle of “ceasing to appeal to the informed diners” has very much accelerated with the internet. Good reviews arrive rapidly, perhaps too rapidly. If there is a new place you quite like — especially if it is trendy — go many times now, because it will decline in quality more rapidly than such places used to. Once the place is established, it can get by more on momentum and on its value as a focal venue for socializing. You can take the presence of a lot of beautiful women as one sign that a place has crossed into this territory.

Don’t think of the model as “what happens to a restaurant when there is an exogenous increase in the beauty of its women” (recall Scott Sumner — “don’t reason from a beautiful women [price] change!”). Think of the model as “what does lots of beautiful women predict about the place of a restaurant in its product life cycle?”

Restaurants with beautiful women are still better than average, relative to the population of restaurants as a whole, for obvious reasons related to wealth and demographics. They’re just not likely to be the very best of the good restaurants, especially for the price.

Arguably it is a different case when a restaurant has beautiful women, but most mainstream male patrons would regard those women as “ineligible,” or “unapproachable,” perhaps for reason of a different religion or ethnicity. At those restaurants you can enjoy both great food for the price and beautiful women, though perhaps your enjoyment of the latter will remain at some distance.

Originally posted on Marginal Revolution – click to see comments and suggestions.

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