Is Breakfast Really Free? Evidence from French and Italian Hotels
George E. Johnson Department of Economics, University of Michigan

Although its origin is somewhat obscure, perhaps the most enduring cliché in economics is that concerning the non-availability of a free lunch. The no-free-lunch idea is, of course, well established in microeconomics, but certain strains in macroeconomics (e.g., old-fashioned Keynesianism and the more recent Laffer Curve nonsense) do hold promises of zero --- and sometimes negative --- prices of certain policies that would be considered costly in microeconomics. More impressive is the fact that the cliché has spread into other disciplines, including a branch of mathematical optimization theory (see Wolpert (1992)) in which it is called “NFL Theory”. It has also been employed --- with considerable controversy --- in the recent quasi-theological dispute over “intelligent design” versus evolution (Dembski (2002) . From an operational point of view, very few restaurants offer free lunches, but there are examples from all over the world of lodging establishments that claim to offer free breakfasts. An example of this is the spiel at the opening of this paper quoted from hotels.com about the joys associated with a free breakfast. During the past several years in the United States the provision of complimentary breakfasts to guests of hotels and motels has become an increasingly common practice. There is even an establishment in Oakley , Kansas that calls itself the Free Breakfast Inn; its web page advertises both a “limited breakfast” and a “hot breakfast” as part of the package (the reader will have to travel to Oakley to discern which of these descriptions is the more accurate ). In Europe trends in the provision of complimentary breakfasts by hotels seem to vary across countries and over time. Table 1 reports the fraction of hotels by the Michelin quality ranking in each of 20 European cities in 2006 that offer breakfast included in the price of a room. The Michelin quality rankings consist of five categories that include one turret: “good average,” two turrets: “comfortable,” three turrets: “very comfortable,” four turrets: “top class,” and five turrets: “luxury in the traditional style.” It is difficult to generalize from this table about the pattern of the incidence of included breakfast across types of countries. It is also difficult to generalize about trends in the incidence of included breakfast over time. In Paris , for example, between 40 and 55 percent of hotels in the five categories offered a complimentary breakfast in 1980, but twenty-six years later virtually none of them did. In Rome and throughout Italy , as will be seen in Section IV of this paper, the trend has been in the opposite direction. The question with which this paper is concerned is the extent to which a complimentary breakfast offered by a hotel is actually a free breakfast rather than a cost that is effectively added to the standard price of a room. Needless to say, as a practicing economist, my prior expectation is that “there is no such thing as a free breakfast,” and I would be very surprised if the relevant data did not reject the null hypothesis that an included breakfast has a zero effect on price. Although I do not consider them in this paper, there are related questions about the effect of other amenities that are supplied without a direct charge (such as parking and a morning newspaper) on hotel prices, and there are similar questions about restaurant pricing (like the effect of an included bottle of wine on the price of a meal ). Although there are some reasonably interesting theoretical issues associated with a hotel's choice of whether or not to tie the consumption of breakfast and the rental of a room, the concern of this paper is on the empirical estimation of the effect of an included breakfast on the total cost of a hotel stay. I chose to estimate the average effect of included breakfasts on hotel prices using data for France in 1980 and in Italy in 2000. I would like to have used more recent data, but there are several reasons, which I will discuss in the next section, why I had to go back in time. The model to estimate the “recapture rate” (the degree to which breakfast is not free) and the data are set out in Section II. The cross-sectional empirical results for France in 1980 and Italy in 2000 are discussed in Section III, and the results for a fixed effects model of changes from 1970 to 1980 in the prices of French hotels and from 2000 to 2006 in the prices of Italian hotels are reported in Section IV. The concluding section of the paper discusses some complications arising from recent turns in hotel pricing policy .

 

 

Reading a Plate
Nir Dudek

With the emergence of nouvelle cuisine , gastronomy has undergone an accelerated evolution. Culinary arts have become media for increasingly personal creations, strongly influenced by cultural and philosophical movements. This article examines the development of the culinary text in both its written and edible forms. It opens by outlining the metamorphosis of the restaurant menu from a mere inventory of dishes to a set of metaphors. This investigation is followed by a portrayal of the tensions amongst modern and postmodern tendencies in contemporary cuisine.

 

 

Portuguese Menus in 19 th Century
Isabel M. R. Mendes Drumond Braga, Universidade de Lisboa

In the 19 th century, Europe witnessed a transition from the service à la française to the service à la russe . The latter presumably created in Russia but also used in Germany (hence it is occasionally being called à la allemande ) became widespread in Europe throughout the 19 th century, by the end of which it was firmly established. In the service à la française , the meal was divided into three, four or more sequences, called services or covers, each of which comprised various hot and cold, sweet and savoury dishes. The dishes were not presented to each guest in turn but were placed symmetrically on the table, so that each person could help himself from the dishes that were closest. This meant that service à la française each diner could make up his own menu from the various dishes that were simultaneously on the table, rather like today's buffets, although guests remained seated. In the service à la russe the dishes were not set out on the table when guests sat down. They were brought in directly from the kitchen to the dining-room as the meal progressed. They were presented individually to each of the dinners. Although the lavishness diminished with the service à la russe , greater attention was paid to floral decorations to compensate the lake ostentation. It is also true that other more important changes were seen with the transition from the French-style to the Russian-style service. The number of footmen at table was reduced and eating habits changed. That is, there were obvious effects on the order of presentation of the dishes and their consumption. As dishes were served one by one the use of the menu became more widespread. Although in already existed, after the 19 th century and as a direct result of the service à la russe it became more popular. The word has several meanings. It began by referring to the list of dishes proposed by recipe books and then also included handwritten of printed sheets of paper which were distributed to each person on the specific occasion of banquet. We should not neglect restaurant menus which for some derive from the menus of festive meals enabling clients to order their dishes and for others is an invention prior to the menus of said festive meals. The idea that all restaurants should have a menu became accepted in France in the 1890s. A handwritten or printed menu or cardboard of Bristol paper and more rarely on fabric was very typical of the 19 th century which belonged to that era of enhancement of refinement and good manners. This was a produce that the aristocracy transmitted to the middle classes. Its aim was to record a memory of a meal by indicating the dishes, whose designations were not always clear, and the various wines consumed. If excerpts from musical works were played during the banquet, these too were also included in the menu , which also served to present the evening's programme: food and music. The investment in the pictures decorating the menus was to celebrate the noble house, the host's family or the event being celebrated. In the second half of the 19 th century, particularly during the 1890s, with significant precedents two decades previously, the service à la française had given way to the service à la russe . Portugal followed the fashion and timing of most of Europe in this regard, both in private meals and in restaurants. The first court menu known so far is dated 6 March 1879 and refers to a dinner given at Ajuda Palace ( Lisbon ) on the occasion of the investiture of Prime Minister Fontes Pereira de Melo with the Toison d'Or. It is written in French and this is not the first menu produced in Portugal . We have earlier examples. If we analyse the content of the menus we see what was eaten and in what order the dishes were served. Designations per region predominated in the table wines. In some cases the references to muscatel wines, Madeira and Porto were more complete. In many cases the menus show which establishment supplied the provisions. These included hotels, restaurants, cake-shops, confectioners and other famous establishments, especially in Lisbon . Whether with original watercolours or drawings, topped by coats of arms, monograms, miscellaneous images, with or without advertising, menus now marked the passing of festive occasions from the second half of 19 th century to our days.

 

 


What are bollicine good for? Experimental evidence on individual preferences on food-wine matching
Matteo Maria Galizzi, University of Brescia and University of York

We consider a salient sample of producers of “classical method” sparkling wines – so-called “bollicine” - from Franciacorta, a hilly area close to Brescia mostly renowned as the unique Italian “Champagne-like” region. Wines are selected to encompass different varieties concerning wine-makers styles, grapes mixtures, cuvèe, vintage years and fermentation processes. We ask a panel of wine-tasters - attending the professional course for sommelier qualification - to go through a blind-tasting experiment. First, each member of the panel is asked to describe the main aromatic characteristics of each wine. Then, is invited to suggest some classes of food and specific meals to accompany the wine for dinner. Finally, we elicit individual willingness to pay for each wine. The hypothesis we aim at testing are the following: a) the effective convergence to the same aromatic sensations across wine-tasters and its degree of robustness through subtle differences in wine typologies; b) whether convergence to the same selection of classes of food and meals is as clear as for the aromas or, rather, food-wine matching is more individual-specific and idiosyncratic; c) the existence of any bias toward specific types of food-wine matching, either in sense of classes of food (namely, shellfish rather than dessert) or in terms of regional provenience of the meals; d) the more significant aromatic and food-matching determinants of individual willingness to pay.

 

 

 

Explaining the Determinants of Price in Top European Restaurants
Frédéric Warzynski, Universidad Carlos III & Aarhus School of Business

This paper studies the determinants of prices charged by restaurants in an international context. Using an unique dataset of 710 restaurants in 16 countries and providing prices, experts' opinion as well as other characteristics such as the number of tables (capacity), the number of dishes offered (diversity) and the number of staff members, I study more particularly the country-specific relationship between price and perceived quality, as measured by experts' opinion. I find that prices are more sensitive to perceived quality in some countries, suggesting different consumers' tastes or different interpretations of quality. I investigate the relationship further by disaggregating experts' opinion according to the various sources. I also find that offering more variety leads to higher price (note: might be cost-related), employing more staff leads to higher prices (definitely cost related but could also mean better service) and having larger capacity leads to lower prices (demand less constrained).

 

 

 

Quality evaluation by Experts and Consumers: Evidence from a Sample of New-York City Restaurants”
Olivier Gergaud, Université de Reims et Université de Paris 1, Karl Storchmann, Whitman College, Vincenzo Verardi, Université Libre de Bruxelles et Université de Namur

The existing literature on the economics of gastronomy has highlighted that expert ratings for cuisine (Michelin and Gault-Millau in particular) tend to induce substantial price increases. Most available studies for France have also found that part of this price premium is not even related to the quality of cuisine but is associated to non-artistic and costly components such as the venue. In the United-States, the evaluation system is very different since it mostly relies on consumers' opinions published either in popular newspapers (such as the New-York Times- dining and wine section) or in guides, such as Zagat Survey . Recently, the market for gastronomic evaluations has changed. On one hand, Zagat Survey has launched editions for several European cities (London, 1998 ; Paris, 2000 and some other major cities) and on the other hand, Michelin has decided to enter the US market by launching an edition for New York city in 2006 and for San Francisco in 2007. In this paper, we conduct an “intervention analysis” by studying the impact that the Michelin's evaluations had on prices charged by restaurants in the New-York city area as well as the effect they had on the way consumers evaluation or perceive the performance of cooks. To address this question, we use a dataset with information collected from several editions of the Zagat NYC (2005, 2006 and 2007) and the Red Guide Michelin (2006, 2007). The information available is vast and ranging from the ratings to the specificities of the restaurants.