I tweeted a series of pricing puzzles. This series is my interpretation of what the answers could be. Do not treat them as absolute answers. Alternative explanations are possible.
There are two parts to this question.
- Why do restaurants charge a fee for sharing?
- Why do they charge two different prices based on what is shared?
It is safe to say that those willing to share are most likely couples and they likely pay for it from the same shared budget. For everyone else, those not sharing budgets, the question of sharing does not even come into play.
A restaurant’s goal is to maximize spend per table. Their wait-staff are essentially the sales team trying to generate more sales per table during the period it was occupied.
So when customers share, it cuts (almost in half) the spend (and hence profit) per table. To discourage customers from doing so, they make the price of the single entree look a little more unattractive by adding the split fee. This is second degree price discrimination. With the split fee, customers may see higher value (consumer surplus) when they order two vs. one.
For those who still want to share for any number of reasons including limiting portions, even with added fee sharing will provide higher consumer surplus and the restaurant gets to recoup profit.
Why charge different split fees? Price discrimination done right. If you charge one split fee, you might as well charge two.
Should they do it? What about customer backlash?
To repeat my earlier point, this is a limited segment that will share food. The rest won’t even notice the split fee. So by all means do it as this is money that flows straight to bottom line. However they should consider their customer mix and capacity utilization.
What does this mean to you as a Tech Product Manager?
I do not recommend you following in the restaurant’s footsteps. Start with the customers and their needs. Consider how your webapp is being used by your customers.
- Do they share login?
- From what budget are they paying for it?
- Is there value for them in keeping separate logins?
- Do they want to keep their Netflix video queue/history or Evernote clip archive separate?
- Do they consume your limited capacity without adding to revenue?
My recommendation: Instead of trying to tack on split fees, make the price of adding second (or third) user attractive that most will do it. (Like SurveyGizmo did)