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Low prices and high regret: how pricing influences regret at all-you-can-eat buffets.

Can the price you pay for a meal influence your perceptions of fullness, feelings of guilt, or regret about how much you ate? We sought to answer this question and learn more about the effects that pricing may have on dining perceptions.

The study conducted in an all-you-can-eat restaurant explored the relationship between the price paid for a meal and the subsequent feelings of fullness and guilt. At Aeillo’s Italian Restaurant, an All-You-Can-Eat restaurant in upstate New York, 139 diners were observed in an unobtrusive and natural manner during the lunch buffet hours for a two-week time period. These groups were either given a flier that promoted an $8 buffet or a flier that promoted a $4 buffet. Once diners finished their meals, they were given a short questionnaire asking a variety of questions stemming from physical discomfort to feelings of guilt, rated on a 9-point Likert scale.

Analysis of the questionnaires combined with diner observations showed that there was a significant main effect pertaining to the price paid for the buffet. Those who were given the 8$ experienced higher feelings of guilt and physical discomfort than those who ate the same amount for 4$. Charging a lower price may influence a diner to set lower expectations about how much they should consume to get their money’s worth compared to those who were charged a higher price.