A recent study conducted by researchers at Cornell University finds that the price of food can influence how we interpret food quality, though price is not a true reflection of quality itself.
The study sent 139 subjects to an all-you-can-eat pizza restaurant, and then put into two groups: one where their meal was $4, and another where the bill came to $8. Participants in the study were asked to rate their overall enjoyment of each slice of pizza they ate, as well as the overall dining experience once the meal was over. The group who paid $4 largely rated the restaurant based on the last piece of pizza they ate, while the $8 group rated according to their impressions of the first slice they had.
These findings may partly challenge what psychologists call the “peak-end” rule, which says that the more intense part of an experience (the peak) and the very last part (the end) form most of our perception about the quality of said experience. The findings from the $8 group seems to go against this logic, showing that when price is higher, the first impression may play a much heavier role.
Timing, then, appears to be a fairly important factor when combined with price. If your product is less expensive, it might pay to save the best for last, while a moderately more expensive offering may benefit by playing strengths early on. This makes good sense for restaurants, as evidenced by the study itself, but there may be lessons to learn for other industries as well, or in releasing new products – anything where you have multiple opportunities to touch consumers in a linear fashion.
The main takeaway here is the power of positioning. Any time you have control over how, when or why someone is accessing your product or service, it can pay to evaluate every step of that process. Sometimes a little bit of science can be the key to putting the best foot forward.