Price wars leave patrons hungry

Rebecca Teale

Karen Iverson just wanted a bagel.
The College of Liberal Arts freshman arrived at Bruegger’s Bagels around 2 p.m. Thursday expecting to get a 19-cent snack, but all she got was a piece of paper. A voucher for future savings replaced the sale price because overwhelming demand forced the bagel shop to halt its special about four hours before she got there.
Bruegger’s is one combatant in a recent Stadium Village price war. Area fast food restaurants are slashing prices, passing out coupons and offering various buy-one-get-one-free deals.
“You get what you pay for,” said Akshay Rao, a University marketing professor. “Price wars benefit the consumers because the prices drop, but the concern becomes the quality and service.”
Rao said quality-conscious consumers suffer because price cutting means longer lines and slower service.
Iverson’s attempt to cash in on a deal landed her a spot at the end of a long line and a voucher for future savings because Bruegger’s stopped their promotion at about 10:30 a.m.
“I’m disappointed because I can’t get my 19-cent bagel. I love bagels,” she said.
The promotion was part of a statewide birthday celebration for the company. Bruegger’s opened its Dinkytown store, the first in Minnesota, in 1984.
Response to the promotion was so great that Bruegger’s couldn’t keep up. Stores were running out of dough and bagels.
Store managers for the Stadium Village Bruegger’s said they were too busy to comment. During a mid-afternoon rush, the managers were baking bagels and working the register to help keep long lines moving.
But Bruegger’s is not the only restaurant vying for the student dollar.
Blimpie Store Manager Paul Nelson had his associates passing out coupons on the corner of Walnut Street and Washington Avenue.
“Blame Taco Bell,” he said. “With their low prices they changed the whole industry, and now there’s one just down the road and around the corner from us.”
Arturo Lopes, of the three-week-old Stadium Village Taco Bell, said despite their low prices, business so far has been slow.
Tortilla Ria Mexican restaurant Manager John Palmquist said although the Taco Bell is right across the street and serves the same type of food, it poses no threat for his business because Tortilla Ria is not a fast food restaurant. The restaurant does offer special discounts, but Palmquist said they were doing it before Taco Bell was there.
International Marketing Professor Thomas Murtha said the area’s dense population during the workday is enough to support the abundance of restaurants. Lowering prices, he said, will only increase the demand.
Linda Holmes, store manager of the Washington Avenue McDonald’s, said the restaurant’s 99-cent Team Big Mac deal gets students into her establishment in huge numbers.
“It gives me more incentive to buy,” said CLA junior Scott Spicer. “A 99-cent meal is going to make me choose that establishment that offers it.”
Spicer said he eats out more frequently when these deals are going on.
But the competition doesn’t only affect the fast food restaurants.
Julie Wild, manager of the independently owned Taste of Manhattan pizza parlor, said area franchises present a unique challenge to independent owners.
Wild said they have had to adjust their menu to fit the needs of the student environment. The restaurant added combo meals and menu items like soup and salad to compete with other restaurants.
“All this in-your-face promotion puts the consumer in an awkward position,” she said. “You shouldn’t have to have all these deals if you have good food and quality service.”