On Writing and Meatballs

Ikea Trick

By this point, many of you have seen a few of my posts on this topic. I’ve talked about it briefly on both Twitter and Facebook, and posted a few screenshots on Instagram. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, let me elaborate.

I recently decided to start posting on the website Quora. It is best described as a question and answer site. Anyone can ask any question. Anyone can answer the questions. Answers can either get an upvote or a downvote, and as you’d expect, the cream rises to the top. I hadn’t thought much about the site until I heard James Altucher repeatedly talking about it. It’s one of his favorite places to post content. If you’re not familiar with James, I highly recommend looking into him. He’s put out some great books, including Choose Yourself and The Power of No. If audio is your thing, he has two great podcasts.

I decided to try posting on the site. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to post, so I started scrolling through the newest questions. One that stood out was “What are some examples of restaurants using psychology to manipulate our spending and eating habits?” I had just come back from a trip to Ikea, and they were the first thing that popped in my mind. Ikea uses their low-priced food to strengthen the low-price profile of everything else in the store. I know how it all works because I was a restaurant manager with them for a few years. I didn’t think this was a secret. It seemed pretty obvious to me. If you’re interested in my whole answer, I’ll add it below, or you can check it out over at Quora.

What happened next seems kind of crazy. My answer started to get a lot of upvotes. In a matter of hours, it was pushed to the top of the answers. I posted it a week ago, and it currently has 2,000 upvotes and over 144,000 views. A few days later, someone on Facebook informed me that my answer was “in the Australian news or something.” I did a quick Google search and came across a piece on News.com/au titled How Ikea Uses Food to Trick You Into Spending. The article mentions me by name and cites my answer as the basis for their article. On the same webpage, there’s a video of the article’s author on an Australian TV show called Studio 10 engaging in a panel discussion on the topic. I’m simply referred to as “a former chef from Ikea”.

Ok, that’s pretty interesting. I continued searching Google, and found that the NY Post had actually picked up the story, but had changed the title to “How Ikea Uses Food to Trick You Into Buying Furniture”. The article has popped up in both my Twitter and Facebook feeds, and continues to be re-posted. But what was really interesting to me was that it had an insane impact on my website. I went from having 15-50 views a day on my site to near 1,000. I’ve pulled in close to 5,000 total views on my site this week, mostly due to my 3-paragraph Quora post. I guess that my point is, if you’re looking to potentially increase web traffic, it might be beneficial to post in places other than your website. You never know where it will take you. Now, if I could only get someone to fly me out to Australia…

Here’s my answer to the Quora question:

One of the most interesting ones that I’ve encountered is Ikea (yes, the furniture store). While you don’t think of them as a restaurant in the traditional sense, they have a quick-serve restaurant, as well as their Swedish food market downstairs. I can speak about this with knowledge because I’ve run one of their foodservice operations. They are using their foodservice department to reinforce their low price profile on items in the rest of the store, even if it means selling food items at a loss. I’ll break it down.

You have no idea how much a couch costs. You see one you like for $599. Is that a good price? You have no idea because you’ve never bought a couch before. But, you can get a full meal that’s only $3.99. You do know that food is much more expensive elsewhere. Then, on the way out, you see that they have hot dogs for 50 cents, as well as soda and cinnamon buns. Why do they have American items at the Swedish grocery store? Because you can identify with those items. We can pretty much agree that 50 cents is the best price you will find for a hot dog anywhere.

Their policy is to be the absolute lowest price on that item within a 30 mile radius, even if it means selling at a loss. They’re reinforcing the low-price profile of the store. So, they take a hit on the food, but just sold you $1,000 in furniture. It’s the same thing other stores do with loss leaders to get you in the door, but I thought it was interesting to use food to sell furniture and housewares.

If you like what you see, please consider hiring me for an in-home dinner or cooking lesson. I run a personal chef business based out of Frederick, MD. Get more information here. Thank you.

Chris Spear

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