Thomas Keller and the role of price in marketing

During the Memorial Day weekend my wife and I spent a little time in the charming town of Yountville, California.  For it’s small population Yountville packs a big punch in the food world as it boasts more Michelin stars per capita than any other place on Earth.  While there we had the good fortune of meeting chef and restauranteur Thomas Keller as he inspected the vegetable garden for his restaurant The French Laundry.  Thomas Keller is the only American chef to have been awarded simultaneous three star Michelin ratings for two different restaurants (The French Laundry & Per Se).  After we met I wandered around Yountville to see his other restaurants and it got me thinking of the often forgotten role of pricing in marketing.

Alison Burns, Thomas Keller and James Taylor outside The French Laundry
Alison Burns, Thomas Keller and James Taylor outside The French Laundry

Mr Keller has four restaurants in Yountville; The French Laundry, Bouchon, Ad Hoc and Bouchon Bakery.  Many people aspire to eating in The French Laundry but with an average bill of $500 per person it’s out of reach for all but those with the fattest wallets.  This is where the role of pricing comes in.  You can access the Thomas Keller experience by going to Bouchon Bakery and buying one of their delicious $10 pastries.  If you are looking to spend in the $100 range then you could go for a finer dining experience at his Bouchon Restaurant or Ad Hoc.  In having this tiered pricing Keller is doing something that many of the world’s great brands do.

You may aspire to have the Armani suit for $5000 but you can ‘get into the brand’ by buying that $50 Armani t-shirt or the $200 glasses.  The music industry is just starting to understand the value of tiered pricing by offering experiences around their artists than range from 99cent iTunes downloads to $250 Limited Edition merchandise to $10,000 VIP packages for the artists show where you have dinner together afterwards.  So how could you add a higher or lower priced option to the product or service you currently offer?

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