How Goldman's cafeteria economics helps cut lunchtime queues short

Tired of wasting your break waiting in line for food? Many of us in the UK are trying to spend less time queueing at lunch, with the average worker taking just 29 minutes before returning to work according to a OnePoll study.

As you might expect, the smart guys at top investment bank Goldman Sachs have devised a solution. They've used price signals to try and smooth traffic to the cafeteria.

At Goldman, cafeteria rush hour times are covered by a "cost penalty window" according to CNBC. If you go for food at any time outside the 11.30am to 1.30pm peak, you'll receive a 25 per cent discount.

It's a smart move, and makes sense for a company that pays a lot for its staff. In finance, people are your capital, and having them idle in a lunch queue does you no favours.

If you're a fan of finance stereotypes you might see Goldman's policy going one of two ways. Employees at the investment bank have a higher income than the average American so they're probably going to be less sensitive to a higher lunch bill.

Alternatively, staff may do something else they're famous for, and minimise unnecessary costs. This can go too far, and have an unintended result. Those who waited for the discount rush to lunch at 1.30pm, resulting in a line. You'd assume that before the policy, those workers were more spread out (over the 11.30am to 1.30pm period, rather than surging for lunch at 1.30pm).

Spokesman David Wells explained the lack of spokesperson availability around 1.30pm to CNBC. Wells said that "Goldman approves of employees using their capital efficiently".

Others have their own recommendations for understanding the economics of lunch lines. Tyler Cowen suggests that a queue implies a place is good - an ineffcient way of signalling the presence of consumer surplus. If customers weren't getting as good a deal then the line wouldn't be so long. So while producers could raise prices, the free marketing from a line outside your premises could be worth more.

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