My wife and I went to a cafe at the weekend, where they said the potato hashes were amazing. We’d heard about it from a few different sources. A cramped diner with plastic sheets, and a massive plate of basically all the component parts of a Full English breakfast mashed together in some magnificent mess. It was, as you may predict, amazing. It also cost £8.10. An expensive dining experience for what it was, if you consider that a bit of potato and some diced sausage probably amounts to a few pence of produce. Relative to a pleasant evening meal in Brighton it’s a pittance, but relative to similar experiences this was an expensive breakfast. And all value, after all, is relative. So why was it worth it?
Despite being utterly satisfied by the meal, in taste and size, my wife later protested the price, reflecting that there’s no way some potato should cost that much. I countered that it’s obviously not just a bit of potato we’re paying for – they have staff and rent to pay, and all the ingredients were reportedly local and high quality. Still expensive, she insisted. Did she enjoy the meal, though? Yes.
Then it was worth it. Enjoyment, after all, has value.
A few months ago we had a similar breakfast at a different cafe, on a whim. Its disappointing flavour and substance left us with deep regrets. We’d never go back there, never recommend it to anyone. It’s upsetting to think about even now. But this recent potato hash, however cheap its component parts may have been, was flawless in size and taste. And you can trust it would be excellent on repeat visits; it receives rave reviews, people go back there regularly. You can count on it to be there, at the same quality, for example, any day a monstrous hangover captures you.
The reliability of the experience is what you’re paying for. And that is essentially what you are always paying for with a dining experience, whether for a rough breakfast in a plastic-coated diner or a grand evening of degustation at a grand French châteaux. It’s not the price of some potatoes, but the price of trust. And that’s how you justify an expensive dining experience – at any level of the scale. You are paying for the trust that the meal will taste good, that it will be prepared properly – for the guarantee of a good meal. In fact, that is how you justify almost any expensive product or service. Trust is a quality that you can justify a premium for.