Having minimal experience in the restaurant industry, marketer David Neinstein (above) spent two full years researching the business before he took the plunge and opened Barque, a smokehouse in an affluent west Toronto neighbourhood. Going in, he had a strong sense of how he wanted to position the eatery: the meat should be high-quality, but his target was mid-market—a full meal, plus a drink or two, for $50 per person. After all, he points out, he’s selling barbecued meat, not the high-concept fare of more upscale restaurants.
Before Barque launched, Neinstein and his partners tried to sample as many mid-market restaurants as they could to assess what $50 could buy you in different parts of the city. They also began negotiating with meat vendors to ensure they could get a reliable supply of high quality pork, brisket and chicken at rates that would allow them to hit the price point. Finally, Neinstein decided that his cocktail and wine prices—areas in which many restauranteurs make their money—would remain at less than $10 per glass, a level that would allow diners to have a couple of drinks as well as a meal and stay within the $50 range. “We wanted to make sure we fit into that bracket,” he says.
After opening in 2011, Barque was an immediate hit, and Neinstein feels his pricing strategy has been justified. By way of evidence, he points out that Barque customers often come four or five times a year, as opposed to people who are looking for that one special evening out on the town. And despite the high demand, he is sticking to his original pricing. “The busier we got,” he says, “the more we worked to keep our prices low.”
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