Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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real-time fast-food pricing

pricing that actively changes according to current market conditions
  (+6, -2)
(+6, -2)
  [vote for,

A fast food restaurant could have menus whose prices are displayed on screens or in LEDs. These prices could also be displayed on large signs outside, such as with gas stations. These displays are connected to a computer which actively changes the price according to a complex program which formulaicly determines the price by current market conditions. Variables affecting price will include as many market variables as available. This would include the number of people in the store, the time of day, the current price of all commodities used in the production (meat, cheese, potatos, electricity, etc.), weather conditions, competitor's prices, local shortages/supluses, economic variables, current demand, losses at other restaurants in the chain, etc. This would be a complex formula and the most difficult part, requiring some good businessmen and economists.

This would work especially well with short-menu hamburger restaurants like california's in-n-out burger, or Seattle's "Dick's", which only have 4-5 things (hamburger, cheeseburger, fries, milkshake, coke) on their menus. Much like they do now with gasoline prices, people driving past large gas-station like signs on the interstate would say "Hey, burgers are 78 cents! Let's eat!" or whatnot. It naturally creates excitement and demand for the product when the demand is at its lowest.

In response to the suggested possibility of getting screwed by this, there should be a maximum rate of change calculated into the price, like $.01/min, or maybe even less. That way, it can't change by more than a few cents in the time it takes you to park, wait in line, and order.

If that doesn't work, perhaps a system for "locking in" on a price could be engineered. However, I don't really feel it's likely one could get too screwed by this. I think people would just see it as fun and as free-market capitalism as its finest. It's all the excitement of playing the stock market without the high risk.

Besides, I think this pricing scheme would allow more efficiency and create an overall cheaper product. Being able to actively modulate the price means the profit margin can be reduced during low-demand periods to maximize profit/demand, meaning more profits. Those profits could then offset a lower-than-average profit margin during peak periods, meaning the competitor could always be undercut. If properly done, I believe it could always be the cheapest and most profitable burger in town.

utexaspunk, Mar 30 2002

in-n-out burger http://www.in-n-out.com/
a restaurant chain to which this idea would be perfectly suited [utexaspunk, Mar 30 2002, last modified Oct 04 2004]

dick's drive-in http://www.ddir.com
another one [utexaspunk, Mar 30 2002, last modified Oct 04 2004]

(???) real time beer pricing http://www.hbtech.de/bierboerse/peine/
"Börse" is German for stock exchange. Note huge real-time pricing board on the wall. [jutta, Mar 30 2002]

Real time pricing in grocery stores http://www.wired.co...opic=shoppers&img=3
[Noldoaran, Dec 21 2004]


       I don't mind the general idea... but I can't help but think that this would lead to my getting screwed, even more than one is already screwed at the drive-thru.   

       Any suggestions as to how to avoid this being used for evil?
cpt kangarooski, Mar 30 2002

       Neat. I can just imagine watching the price go up as I sit at a stop light across the street.
phoenix, Mar 30 2002

       <Newspaper headline: FAST FOOD OPERATOR PULLS FAST ONE! > Much like gas pumps at self-serve stations, it would have to be made very clear as to which price you will pay - the sign on the roof saying 78 cents which is why you nearly caused a nine-car pileup to pull a U-turn to get there or the one above the counter that says $1.13.   

       Then there's the car salesman syndrome. 78 cents for the plain burger, 4 cents for ketchup, 3 for mustard, the price of mayo has been hit hard by an egg shortage so it's 10 cents today, and I know you'll want that fresh, crisp pickle everyone has been raving about for just 5 cents more. Your family will love you for it.   

       [cpt kangarooski] - the only good I can see coming from this would be if the managers of these places become better at timing their productivity, thereby increasing their sales per serving prepared, there would be less food wasted.
Canuck, Mar 30 2002

       M, I think possibly life is a little short for all that.
po, Mar 30 2002

       How do you keep the prices from naturally spiking at meal times?
waugsqueke, Mar 30 2002

       You could just make the changes daily. That would be simpler, and the prices could be changed at a time when nobody's around - say, 4:00 AM EST.   

       Anybody who IS around will only be there because they're drunk or stoned, and could easily be convinced that they simply saw the wrong price.
shapu, Dec 21 2004

       The prices are meant to naturally spike at meal times. That's sort of the whole idea.
+ for combining the worlds of burgers and economic theory. Just to add to the fun, you could set up a futures market by selling tokens that, for instance, entitled someone to a cheesburger between 6:00 and 7:00 tomorrow evening.
spacemoggy, Dec 21 2004

       [Noldoaran], "RFID allows prices to shift in response to real-time supply and demand." in this Wired quote. WHOSE demand? To WHAT supply? Something locally made or five thousand miles away in a sweat house?   

       There's a missing video link here, you should be able to see the person on video who made your food and be able to ask them, "Did you spit in this?"
mensmaximus, Dec 21 2004


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