The Great Meatball Mystery
August 31, 2012 2:43 PM   Subscribe

This weekend, IKEA is offering a food special where the price of your meal is deducted from furniture orders of $100 or more. In the fine print, I noticed an unusual clause: "Swedish meatballs not included in restaurant offer at IKEA Carson." Everyone loves Ikea's Swedish meatballs, but is the meatball market really THAT much more robust in Carson, CA? What's the deal?
posted by bowbeacon to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
It's not specific to Carson, CA. I believe the exception applies at all IKEA stores.

When I noticed this the last time I was in IKEA (the same offer was on), I assume it was because meatballs were the most expensive thing on the menu (which I think is true, but I'm a vegetarian, so I don't pay much attention).
posted by hoyland at 3:46 PM on August 31, 2012

Agreed. This is that IKEA location - it's in the middle of everything. I've seen busier IKEAs, but I can't think of any that are so convenient in terms of just wandering in to buy stuff the way you do a Target or a Wal-Mart or whatever. I'm trying to remember whether it feels as busy as the Chicago one. I think Chicago is busier, but the restaurant is maybe less busy.

Anyway, the point of the food special is that you come in and buy a ton of stuff and also really eat a lot, but the increase in stuff is way in excess of the increase in food. If people ordinarily already eat a lot, and their purchases per capita are smaller (which is more likely with a convenient/central location) then it's less of a great promotion. You want folks who will buy $12 of food (instead of $0) and $340 worth of stuff (instead of $150) - people who will buy $16 of food and $101 of stuff aren't such a hot option. At least get them to buy $25 worth of high-margin foods like carrot cake. (The margin on meat generally sucks compared to most everything else you can sell - you want them eating pasta, darn it.)

The meatballs are not the most expensive item in the restaurant - they are the least expensive. I believe they're selling them a little bit above cost, given how cheap that meal is.
posted by SMPA at 3:51 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

No, it's just for Carson, at least this specific offer is. I think it's because Ikea Carson has a different meatball combo than the others but I can't remember where I read that.

The last time I went to Ikea, the most expensive thing was baby back ribs. I remember going "hey they have that here... MMM MEABTALLS."
posted by sm1tten at 3:52 PM on August 31, 2012

a) They don't make much money on the meatballs. That means the more they give away the more money they lose.

b) People come for the meatballs. If the promotion included meatballs there would be a run on them, meaning lots of people wouldn't get them. That means unhappy customers and that's bad for business.

If you squint around at the fine print on other companies promotions you'll see it's very common to restrict both low margin and high popularity items for these reasons.
posted by Ookseer at 11:15 AM on September 1, 2012

I'm so curious about the answer to this question. Most answers have guessed at why meatballs would be excluded, but haven't addressed the question of why this is only at the Carson, CA store. Maybe the only way to get the answer is to call IKEA? This is a great question, and I'm dying to know the answer.
posted by daikon at 4:11 PM on September 1, 2012

Best answer: According to IKEA Fans, IKEA excluded chicken tenders and french fries during last year's Kids Eat Free Labor Day promotion in Carson, and there were some other unspecified Carson restrictions on Black Friday last year.

The IKEA stores I am familiar with have a restaurant (cafeteria) and a separate bistro (fast food counter). At Carson, they appear to have only a bistro, but it is an unusual bistro that also appears to serve some items from the standard restaurant menu. I believe that one can buy frozen meatballs to take home at the Seattle bistro. Maybe this is also true in Carson and people buying $100 worth of frozen meatballs would disturb the assumptions behind this promotion. And for some reason IKEA thought it would be easier to prevent meatball purchase entirely rather than just frozen meatballs.
posted by grouse at 12:46 AM on September 2, 2012

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