In six months of observing the 2018 dining habits of nearly 10,000 women, researchers found that high-end restaurants hit their mark only 15 percent of the time — and average tables couldn’t come close, either.
University of Washington psychologists Marc Asch and Steven Bain found that customers repeatedly choose some spots out of frustration with waiting in line, frustration with not being able to order alcohol or drinks, or frustration over being so crowded that they were fighting or simply bored. The researchers were testing the hypothesis that higher-quality restaurants — restaurant critics might term them desirable, but a broad industry term would be “fine-dining” — are also more effective at satisfying people.
And it turns out restaurants that fail serve as models for failure.
“The study is provocative, but it’s also, perhaps, not so surprising,” said J. Penny Baker, a professor at the Institute for Mental Health Sciences at George Washington University.
“First, restaurants that score well in the survey fail in a way that does not seem to occur in less-promising restaurants. This fits with one recent paper demonstrating that if your restaurant scores higher than 65 out of 100 (and doesn’t turn a profit), your wait times may be worse than those of a less-promising restaurant. Second, it is surprising that those high-quality restaurants that scored poorly — like Cafe Rouge — tend to fail at the extremes. They do not fail in a model way like Cafe Rouge; they might also not fail in a ways that make them less likely to succeed.”
Guess that restaurant’s name’s not worth repeating.
“Finally,” Baker said, “it was especially interesting to find that less-expensive restaurants often fail too. In other words, bad experiences may not happen in the most expensive restaurants — they are all associated with, or comprised of, higher-quality restaurants, but not all are.”