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Image of a dining place setting with the word "veto" overlaid. The image is meant to depict the challenges that businesses such as restaurants face in appealing to groups of people with diverse  requirements

An interesting article in Bloomberg Businessweek discusses the fast food chain White Castle’s plans to begin offering a veggie slider in their stores. According to early results in a few test markets, the product has performed well leading the organization to be optimistic about the product’s performance once rolled out across the country.

For many supermarkets and restaurants offering popular and trendy items such as superfoods and other healthier menu items provides an opportunity to bring in younger, more health conscious consumers. With this in mind it would stand to reason that perhaps White Castle’s interest in a veggie slider was driven by a desire to offer a healthy alternative to some of its other items. It’s not uncommon for fast food chains to offer healthier items such as salads as an alternative to a burger and fries.

It’s worth noting that the veggie slider offered by White Castle isn’t much healthier than the current mini beef burgers that the chain is known for. But, the veggie slider does provide White Castle with a main vegetarian option to couple with sides such as french fries, cheese sticks, or onion rings (the only other non-meat items on the menu to choose from) in order to build a meal.

While vegetarians don’t account for a large proportion of the population, they tend to have their fair share of non-vegetarian friends. This consideration is one of the ways in which White Castle’s decision to offer veggie sliders may really pay off. For marketers who have to understand and woo groups (as is the often the case for those in the hospitality industry) being aware of the “veto vote” can help create significant opportunities to increase revenue. In this case taking the “veto vote” off the table means removing the likelihood that one member of a group will veto a choice because it fails to meet their minimum needs. An important consideration for any marketer who has to consider that a purchase decision for each individual or an organization will stem from the thoughts and opinions of a group of individuals.

With the only choices for a vegetarian at White Castle being traditional side items in a group situation where the decision of where to go eat was being made it wouldn’t be unlikely that a vegetarian in the group would “veto” White Castle as an option. As a result, the group would ultimately decide upon another option that had a wider variety of choices for everyone to enjoy, regardless of their dietary preferences. This could happen with a group of friends going out for a late night snack, a group of colleagues on their lunch break, or a family going out for dinner for instance. When you think about all of these possible combinations for White Castle, and other organizations with similar challenges, the potential loss of sales really starts to add up.

This concept also speaks to the importance of not looking at the performance of products or services in isolation. A seemingly poor performer might be far more valuable than its directly attributable sales’ numbers may suggest. Some products might have synergy with others that a marketer didn’t identify until they started to dig into the data. These products could be complementary in the sense that they work well together for consumers in ways that were not originally recognized. Or, they might enable a diverse group, acting as a whole, to make a decision to be able to find a suitable level of utility for all of the group’s members (as could be the case with the introduction of the veggie slider at White Castle). The important thing to note is that removing a product or a service from an organization’s mix of value offerings could have unforeseen impacts.

From a marketing management perspective here are some questions to consider:

  • What is another example of an industry or specific business in which a marketer should consider the possibility of a “veto vote” as a source of lost sales opportunities?
  • As a marketing manager for White Castle what metrics would you track in order to determine the impact of introducing veggie sliders to the fast food chain’s menu?