My friends and I were in Las Vegas recently for our annual guys’ trip. One evening we headed over to Caesar’s Palace to try the Bacchanal Buffet. Despite its $60 price tag, we were excited to try it because we heard it was the best buffet in Vegas.
Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who had heard. As we walked down a long hallway well off the casino floor, we were stopped halfway down by a sea of people waiting in line to enter. You couldn’t even see the buffet from the line’s end!
My friends and I looked at each other and considered our options. On one hand, this was easily a two-plus hour wait. On the other, we all had this buffet on the brain, so eating elsewhere was bound to be a disappointment.
But then fate (and the power of technology) found an answer. My friend Jeremy started typing away furiously on his iPhone and declared, “Hey guys, for $20 extra we can get a front-of-the-line pass!”
The rest of us immediately looked to see what Jeremy had found and concurred: For the price of a blackjack hand, we could skip the line entirely and get to eating. We didn’t hesitate. We stepped out of line, made our way to the front, and within a few minutes (instead of a few hours), we were in buffet heaven.
The front-of-the-line concept is not a new one. Airports, for example, will let you get through lines faster if you have the proper pass. So will amusement parks. But this was the first time I’d seen this concept in the realm of dining.
Papa John’s must have taken notice too, as it recently brought the idea to the fast food industry.
Called the “Papa Priority” fee, Papa John’s is offering customers at select locations the chance to spend an additional $2.99 so that their order can go to the front of the line and get made faster. Though the fee doesn’t guarantee delivery within a set time, the company says that the response so far has been positive.
This is probably the next logical step when it comes to convenience and quick delivery in fast food. Over the years, we’ve relished the ability to order food online, on an app, or by sitting in our living room and saying, “Alexa, order me a pizza.” It makes sense that we’re now seeing the option of paying a little more to have our food made first.
Will more eateries introduce the front-of-the-line fee? It’s likely, especially the pizza chains. If “Papa Priority” proves successful, expect Domino’s, Pizza Hut, and others to follow suit and maybe even up the ante by guaranteeing food within a set time period.
Remember when you picked up the phone, called in your order, and however long it took, it took? Back then, it was our only pizza ordering option. Today, your pizza can cut to the front of the line.
Ain’t technology grand?
Nevin Barich is the Food & Beverage analyst for Industry Intelligence, a Los Angeles-based market intelligence firm. It's the perfect job for him: He loves junk food, he often works besides a glass of Diet Dr. Pepper, and anytime one of the health nuts in his office gives him grief for eating a Big Mac, he gets to smile and say: "Hey, this is my job." Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.