The long wait for $ 200 fries

The Golden Opulence Sundae ice cream at Serendipity3 restaurant in New York City lives up to its name.

They are three scoops of Tahitian vanilla ice cream covered with an edible 23 carat gold leaf, teaspoons of Grand Passion caviar for dessert, an artisan golden sugar orchid with the very expensive Italian dark chocolate Amedei Porcelana and Chuao chocolate, made with Venezuelan cocoas. rare.

The dish is served in a Baccarat Harcourt crystal goblet and must be ordered at least 48 hours in advance so that the restaurant has time to acquire the exotic ingredients.

US$ 1,000 it’s so much more than Chantha Thach imagined spend on a dessert.

“For me, who grew up in a middle class family, US$ 1,000 is the rent of the House of somebody. Maybe not renting in expensive New York, but renting from someone somewhere, ”says the personal trainer.

But in December 2019, her aunt and cousins ​​came from Ohio for their first visit in nearly a decade, and before lunch at Serendipity3, her aunt revealed a surprise: She had ordered the ice cream.

Shared among the table of six, tasting the dessert turned out to be just under $ 170 per person. And the way Thach describes the experience, it was worth every penny.

“I literally savored every spoonful”, he assures.

“I mean, it was obviously the best dessert I’ve ever had in my life.”

A Woman Eating French Fries by Serendipity3

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This kind of superlative is exactly what the plate was designed for. It was added to the Serendipity3 menu in 2004 to earn it the title of “Most expensive dessert” in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The restaurant also holds the titles for the most expensive sandwich, which is a $ 214 grilled sliced ​​cheese and bread paired with South African lobster tomato soup.

The $ 100 milkshake comes served in a glass embedded with Swarovski crystals, and as of July 2021, it is the most expensive in the same register.

The pricey $ 200 fries have been blanched with Dom Pérignon champagne and topped with truffle salt, truffle oil, truffled cheeses and shaved black truffles.

The restaurant is not alone in its quest for culinary extravagance.

In the city of Voorthuizen, in the Netherlands, the De Daltons restaurant debuted last month with a 5,000 euro hamburger (US$ 5.900). It is made with the highest quality A5-rated Japanese wagyu meat mixed with Alaskan king crab and Iberian ham.

In Las Vegas, Wally’s Wines and Spirits now offers diners the opportunity to spend their winnings on a $ 1,000 dry-aged rib steak for 200 days.

And London’s Dum Dum Donutterie offers a high-end culinary creation that lives on in tradition is a 1,500-pound ($ 2,000) cronut with caviar.

Serendipity 3, New York

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The milkshake, the cheese sandwich and the dessert from the New York restaurant Serendipity 3, are some of the products that appear on the Guinness World Records list as the most expensive in the world.

While spending dazzling sums for a piece of meat or a plate of French fries may seem ridiculous to some, these dishes are an effective marketing gimmick, as evidenced by multi-week waiting lists and “what-if” YouTube videos. I tried ”, which accumulate tens of millions of visits.

Even though the pandemic has reduced the opportunities – and in many cases the appetite – for celebrity consumption, why are these high-budget menu items still so popular? Do we feel that now, more than ever, we deserve a luxury?

Ready to splurge?

For Serendipity3, at least, the pricey fries were meant to build buzz around the restaurant’s reopening after more than a year of pandemic-related renovations and closures. Beyond generating headlines, the dish also quickly racked up a 10-week waiting list.

The success of the publicity stunt comes as no surprise to Aaron Allen, founder of Chicago-based restaurant consultancy Aaron Allen & Associates.

As a restaurant, introducing an over-the-top menu item “is a great way to get attention,” he says.

Serendipity3 got wide publicity for its gold ice cream when it launched and now its latest product appears to be made for the post-pandemic climate. Since more people are comfortable traveling and dining out, it is the right time to offer a dish that is decadent, but not entirely out of reach for the eager to splurge.

“We’ve all been so locked up for so long that spending 20%, 30%, 40% more in a restaurant no longer seems like something reserved for birthdays and anniversaries,” Allen says.

This shift in customer attitudes is also encouraging more restaurants to add high-end dishes like Tomahawk steaks, an extra-large and eye-catching ribeye cut, for two or four people to their menus where they might have previously resisted price, he says.

Cronut with caviar from Dum Dum Donutterie, London

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The caviar cronut from Dum Dum Donutterie in London sells for 1,500 pounds ($ 2,000).

According to Anat Keinan, associate professor of marketing at Boston University, USA, people may be more willing to indulge themselves when circumstances push them to take a long-term perspective.

In his research, he found that when you ask people about their regrets and short-term priorities, tend to focus on concerns like not working enough, not dieting or exercising enough, or not saving enough money.

On the contrary, when you ask them to think about the last 5 or 10 years, or to look to the future, they tend to prioritize and regret having missed out on pleasant experiences.

Situations like travel (as in the case of Thach’s aunt), as well as major events like the pandemic, foster this kind of long-term perspective.

People are more inclined to say, “Oh, you know what? I don’t want to miss opportunities to be happy and have special experiences with my family, with my friends, ”says Keinan. “And that allows them to live these kinds of special experiences without feeling guilty.”

These lush dishes tick all the boxes for what Keinan calls “Collectible experiences”: they are iconic, rare -as the waiting lists show-, unique, extreme and instagrammable.

These qualities create a memorable experience, one that is enjoyed not only in the moment, but also through anticipation in the run-up and with photos and memories afterward.

Golden Opulence Sundae, Serendipity3

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The Golden Opulence Sundae dessert from the Serendipity3 restaurant in New York costs $ 1,000.

When Thach had his decadent meal, his aunt was celebrating the successful year she had had with her business.

To his niece, he emphasized that a treat like ice cream “is a life experience that doesn’t come often or is easy, and she worked very hard to get to this point, so she wanted to share that with me,” says Thach.

“I think that’s why it meant more to me than just, ‘Oh, I spent $ 1,000 on this dessert.’ It meant a lot. “

“The Emirates effect”

Part of the appeal of a novelty item, such as a pastry or oversized hamburger, is its high-low appeal: It is a food that is usually affordable and easily accessible, much like a plate of french fries or a hamburger.

“Everybody knows what it’s like to eat a hamburger,” says Leigh Caldwell, a cognitive economist, a fellow at the Irrational Agency in London, and the author of “The Psychology of Price.”

“So you’re more likely to notice a 5,000-euro ($ 5,898) hamburger than a tasting at the posh New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park. [que cuenta con tres estrellas Michelin]. That wouldn’t be relevant to you, ”says Caldwell.

And even if you don’t ask for the highest price, the fact that there is can change your dining experience in that restaurant.

Caldwell calls him “The Emirates effect”, in reference to the ultra-luxurious first-class private suites of Emirates airline.

“Even if you fly economy class for $ 400, you still have the idea that some of that magic that that ultra-luxurious $ 30,000 suite in the sky will splash on your little economy class seat in the back,” he says.

It is similar to a $ 200 plate of potato chips, “this article has a halo effect which makes you think that the rest of the menu, the rest of the experience that you are going to have there, is still something quite special ”.

This is one of the reasons why Burger King debuted in 2008 with a hamburger from Waygu beef limited edition of $ 130. Even if few people ate it, it promoted the message that the chain could be a more premium fast food option.

“The information in a price does many of the same things that a well-managed brand does,” says Utpal Dholakia, professor of marketing at Rice University in Houston, USA. what to expect and what will the quality of the product be like ”.

Even if the only thing you knew about the Golden Opulence Sundae was its price, he claims, you would already have a vivid picture in your mind of what it would look like and what it would know. And what is most important for the restaurant, what kind of experience could you have there, no matter what you order.

Burger and fries

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After the experience of isolation due to the covid-19 pandemic, some people are willing to invest large sums of money in gastronomic experiences that they consider unique at exorbitant prices.

As a marketing move, it has the opposite effect of, for example, offering a Groupon discount coupon to eat $ 99-cent potato chips, he explains.

It attracts customers who are likely to be less price sensitive and gives the restaurant more pricing power over the overall menu.

“If you want to communicate that you have a certain quality, a certain environment and a certain experience,” says Dholakia, “a really effective way to do it is with a really high price“.

As the pandemic continues to limit consumer spending opportunities, every trip and meal at a restaurant now feels, to many, like a special occasion.

So while diners are in such a festive mood, why not fill the void with gold leaf and caviar?

“With the way we’ve lived our lives in the last year and a half, a lot of us are eager to do this kind of thing,” emphasizes Dholakia, “so this it is an opportune moment to offer experiences“.

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