Right now I'm sat in a wifi coffee place in West Hampstead, my home internet isn't working and I fancied immersing myself in a cosmopolitan environment
Over on The Londonist there's this story about a restaurant in town that has a priceless menu, folk just pay however much they think their meal was worth. The story points out that its been done before in London, and indeed I vaguely recall BoingBoing covering US attempts of the same thing.
Now can this business model be improved? I reckon so.
There was a thing in Freakonomics about a bakery in the US which had no cashier. They found it was cheaper just to let customers use an honesty box and occasionally take buns without paying than it was to employ a member of staff to money duties. Customers would have to steal about $60 stuff a day to make it uneconomical, and for the purposes of Freakonomics, it worked.
So could these two things be combined in a cafe? No prices and no cashier staff. Just a kitchen cook person frying bacon, laying out chocolate fudge cake and making sure the coffee machine was full. I see the kitchen chap occasionally asking customers to collect dirty cups and then offering a free slice of cake if they load up the dishwasher. And if it gets really busy asking customers to fry their own damned bacon.
But all this is offset against the savings of not having to pay staff, no National Insurance, no pensions to worry about, streamlined accounting, etc.
Hmph, I reckon the chef kitchen monkey would have to have a hell of a personality and keep the punters in line and entertained.
Not me then.
Hmm, after reading this article about the Bagel Man, I think I'd take photies of the customer, just above the door, when it opens or closes, it take a snapshot, and then every week, there'd be a leaderboard on the wall of the most honest customers and the most dishonest ones, also the most helpful customers. And like there'd be not so much free food for the best customers, but personalised food, cakes with their name on it, or special dishes created in their honour.
And hopefully the dishonest customers would change their ways or not come back.
Hmm, have plugged my laptop into the wall now, she was getting thirsty. And scared I hadn't eaten enough I went and got some cake, it was a tough choice between pecan pie and carrot cake, but the serving girl persuaded me to go for pecan.
Right, on reading the first paragraph of this story about a coffee shop in Seattle with free coffee, I reckon that in my hypothetical cafe, I'm going to have wee parking meters on tables, and flashing lights when folk don't pay. So as long as you keep the meter paid, you can eat as much as you like in peace, and sure you can eat and drink without paying, as long as you don't mind flashing lights letting any other customer know you're a free loader.
Would this be better? and would it be immoral to set flexible pricing so at ceertain times of the day, the meters run down faster?