Thursday, October 23, 2008

Should we have a huge menu with many choices or a smaller menu with fewer choices?

A few years ago, a professor from Columbia University completed a series of studies that resulted in an article “When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing?” In one experiment, they set up a tasting booth at a grocery store. They offered 24 different exotic flavors of jams for people to taste in one instance. In a separate instance, they only offered 6 varieties. Customers who stopped by the booth received a coupon for a dollar off the purchase of a jar. In this experiment:

More people stopped at the booth that offered more choices; however, folks tasted the same number of jams in both locations.
More importantly, 30% of the people with a choice of 6 jams actually purchased a jar. Only 3% of the people with a choice of 24 jams made a purchase. Fewer choices generated more purchases.
Barry Schwartz wrote in his book The Paradox of Choice:

When people have no choice, life is almost unbearable. As the number of available choices increases, as it has in our consumer culture, the autonomy, control, and liberation this variety brings are powerful and positive. But as the number of choices keeps growing, negative aspects of having a multitude of options begin to appear. As the number of choices grows further, the negatives escalate until we become overloaded. At this point, choice no longer liberates, but debilitates.

We will be working on the menu soon. This is something that is going to be very difficult for me. How do we choose what goes on the menu when we have so many good items? I want to have everything..but I know that's impossible! We changed something on our Neshannock Creek Inn Menu this year. Instead of having sandwiches listed by themselves, we now have them come with a choice of fries, slaw or soup. Some people seem to get exhausted having to make the choice. What kind of soup? They usually get two or sometimes three choices? I'm finding that a lot of people like the choice to be made for them. For example if they are getting a battered Cod Dinner, they like it when it says Battered Cod with homemade macaroni and cheese and a side of slaw.. instead of this.. Cod? Would you like it baked or Battered? Battered? okay.. how about scalloped potatoes, macaroni and cheese, baked potato, sweet potato, fries or potato wedges? hmmmm can you repeat those? *I say them again* ummm are your fries homemade? no.. okay sweet potato. Salad, slaw or cup of soup? What kind of soup? Wedding or French Onion. Salad. What kind of dressing on your salad? Argghhhhh!! See what I mean? It gets frustrating for the customer to have to make all those choices sometimes! What do you think? Do you like having lots of choices or do you trust an expert to make the choice for you?

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