Gambling For Breakfast: Flipping the Coin against the House

A year or so ago, I was reading an article about novel pricing methods and fun restaurants and I wrote myself a note to visit Floyd’s Diner the next time I was in Victoria, BC. Today I fulfilled that reminder.

Floyd’s could have simply been like any other diner in any other similar city where tourists and locals gather for comfy food served by local flavor. Floyd’s goes beyond that and in a total VerasSage way. We at VeraSage appreciate fully the Experience Economy (see Pine and Gilmore’s excellent book with the same title) and Floyd’s Diner has their hook.

Their hook is straight forward, gutsy, and fun.

On their breakfast menu along with all of the traditional and local faire, the chef offers The Mahoney. The Mahoney is described in their menu as: “You’ll get whatever the kitchen prepares and you can either pay the original price (currently $11 CDN), or we’ll flip you for it – double or nothing! Breakfast or Lunch”

Walking in I knew I was going to try this and I was going to flip for it. I was willing to pay 2x the base price for the opportunity to have fun and share in this experience. My good friend Sven also ordered the Mahoney. The rest of our table were unwilling to gamble on what might be delivered and remember it is the chef’s choice and how they feel.

Two plates arrived, Sven’s was some form of Eggs Benedict with chicken, ham, potatoes and eggs, tasty but a traditional style breakfast. Mine arrived as some form of triple decker Texas Toast, slightly grilled with eggs and meats on each layer, covered with cheese and scallions along with potatoes. The meats were of all flavors and variety and when I asked the body-art embellished waitress what the meal was called, she reminded me it was the Mahoney and it isn’t on the menu. The meal was extremely large and thankfully my 13 year-old son was there as he was still hungry after his “lumberjack breakfast.”

When the meal was done, the waitress asked if we were going to gamble and Sven and I both said yes. Sven went first, she pulled out a quarter from her pocket but offered us to use one of ours (we declined) she flipped the coin, Sven called “heads” she showed tails and now his $11 breakfast was $22 (and heck, I was paying so I am now really in the hole). My turn. She flipped, I called “tails” and tails it was. Mine was free. We broke even. That was fine.

Sven and I discussed that the best we could do was win 2x (saving $22 + GST) and worst we could do was spend an extra $22 (without GST) (the value of gambling is it must be outside of taxes) and the expected outcome of course would be to break even. Of course, fair coins are only fair over many tosses and results are independent.

In then end, we both had excellent meals (visit Floyd’s next time you are in Victoria) and we had the opportunity to both receive free meals (pre-tip that is, the servers aren’t gambling with their wages).

The lessons for other businesses is that maybe this is possible for your products and services. Would you be willing to serve your own version of a product (remember, I didn’t get to choose my meal, it could have been something distasteful) and then offer your customer the chance to escape payment if they were willing to risk paying double?

Think about – great fun and the courage to experiment just might be worth it and engaging your customer is never a mistake. You can afford the risk, and the overall numbers are on your side. Simply win more than you lose.

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