An item at a restaurant often costs significantly more than the same item at a grocery or supermarket. Why? There’s a variety of reasons, but I believe the quintessential difference is that at a supermarket we primarily purchasing ingredients — uncooked — and ‘serving’ ourselves. At a restaurant we purchase primarily cooked food that has been prepared for us. And we pay a premium for this extra service.
Clearly, the lines are blurred — and more so each day. Restaurants and fast food shacks offer uncooked food, and supermarkets now offer a variety of cooked and prepared meals. Yet we all still agree to play along, for the most part, and so the soda one we buy along with our Safeway Select toasted Panini is half the price than the soda we get with our turkey foot-long at Subway. But for the time being the distinction still exists, and so the price difference still seems to make some sort of sense.
Self-serve yogurt shops, though, blatantly cross this line: we serve ourselves; the food is all manufactured, shipped, and packaged in bulk quantities; there’s no service beyond a cashier; and we even pay by the ounce. Yet we don’t pay grocery prices, we pay restaurant prices. What’s the deal?
[These things are becoming ubiquitous in the San Francisco Bay Area, particularly where I live in Walnut Creek. There’s about one shop per square mile, based on a quick Google Map based approximation. So there’s clearly a demand for them, and I myself have paid $4 for a small cup of frozen yogurt. ]