by Ben Miller
The commenters in Ezra’s post about the behavioral economics of bread bring up an interesting point about restaurants dealing with giving free chips and salsa versus paying for it. To a certain extent, I wonder if that reflects the different expectations that American diners have set up for Mexican restaurants versus ones that are likely to serve bread. When you go to a sit-down Mexican restaurant there is an expectation that you will receive some sort of chip and salsa combination (I have never gotten free guacamole as one commenter mentioned, but that sounds amazing.)
On the other hand, there does not appears to be some pre-determined standard of what restaurant will serve bread and which won’t. Potenza, for example served bread. But Sette Osteria, a restaurant that serves similar food, does not.* I could get fairly similar dishes at both places at roughly equivalent prices, but one has made the choice to serve bread, while the other has not.
At the opposite end of the expectation that Mexican restaurants will provide chips and salsa is Indian restaurants and naan. I don’t believe that I have ever received free naan while dining at an Indian restaurant, and so am accustomed to having to pay a few dollars to receive some.
Then of course there is the middle ground of rice at Asian restaurants. Some places give it to you, some charge a dollar or so for it. And then others offer white rice for free but charge extra for brown–think of it as the equivalent of paying some extra money to “upgrade” your bread.
It all plays into the pre-conceived notion that I have established from years of dining. Mexican restaurants will give me free chips and salsa, Indian establishments will charge me for naan, and sometimes I will pay for rice. If we adjusted our bread expectations closer to those of Indian restaurants, then maybe the notion of paying for it would not be such a big deal.
*I’m pretty sure that’s the case, if I’m wrong let me know.