Monday, April 25, 2005

French dining: why so expensive?

From the always-interesting, which appears not to enable trackbacking to specific posts:

Tour D'Argent, by Yishen Kuik

My wife was making reservations for good French restaurants in Paris and has been compiling recommendations for two and three Michelin star places.

I was shocked to find that the typical prices for these places ran to 300+ euros for dinner. In New York, there are a few places that run over $300, but these are the outliers. Most top restaurants have tasting menus offered between $100 and $180.

Why does such a phenomenon exist, I wonder?

Are Parisians that much wealthier than New Yorkers? Are there more wealthy Parisians than there are wealthy New Yorkers? Both are clearly not the case. Do Parisians love food 300% more than New Yorkers? Unlikely. Does labor cost 300% more in Paris? Possibly, but if price goes up, no matter the reason, quantity demanded must go down, and I should not be able to find dozens of such restaurants.

I don't know the answer for sure, but here is my guess: It is because the French have poor corporate governance.

Three kinds of people provide the repeat business at top restaurants: those who love food, those who have money and those who are on an expense account.

Perhaps the many very expnesive restaurants in Paris can be explained by the possibility that those on expense accounts do not suffer much oversight of their expenditures, a condition consistent with the assumption of weak power that shareholders exert over the daily operations of a typical French company. This explanation is aided by the other curious phenomenon that some of these restaurants are closed on the weekend.


Jeff said...

I have no idea what you were looking at. When I spent a couple weeks in Paris you could get ridiculous amounts of food for so little money. Every two feet was another cafe. The standard price for a 3/4 course meal was about $8. That includes free wine. It was the kind of food that you'd get for $100 or $200 in New York. And the portions were huge also. One time I ordered mussels for my appetizer course, and got a Kilogram! The most expensive meal that we ate was at this place called "Sergeant Recruiters" on Ile St. Louis, where not only was the food fancy but everything (but the main course) was unlimited. Unlimited cheese, meat, and dessert courses (each was a basket of everything you could ever imagine). The whole meal was $20. I didn't know that you could even spend more than about $25 on dinner in Paris...

Clara said...

Just to be clear --- I quoted someone else who'd encountered this phenomenon; *I* have never been to Paris.

Your input certainly rounds out the picture. The guy was marveling at the plethora of very expensive restaurants. . . . He didn't say there weren't any cheap dives, though.