Fake Scarcity in the New York Food Scene

There is an interesting phenomenon occurring in the New York City Food Scene: that of fake scarcity. Food establishments are making their products or dishes hard to get as opposed to boasting a bountiful fully-stocked quantity of their products. This is the case in the fashion industry, where consumers will line up for coveted limited-edition limited-supply designer pieces, which makes sense to a certain degree, however should this also be the case for lunch or  a pastry? Totonno’s pizzeria in Coney Island is known for the times when customers used to be ushered away because the pizzeria had run out of dough, causing customers to line up early to ensure this wouldn’t happen to them. They now operate with sufficient dough for the demand, however the hype and memory of the frenzy that was caused by the running out of dough at Totonno’s will remain. This seems ironic, however the limited availability of a product and the hype that ensues if a product ‘runs out’ (although designed this way) gives the guest the impression that it must be an outstanding product worth lining up for.

A great example of this phenomenon is Dominique Ansel’s cronut. New Yorkers are willing to start queuing at the crack of dawn to get their hands on one of the 450 $5 croissant-donut hybrids. For those who are not willing to line up early, there is a “cronut black market” where the item can be made available for $40 each. Another example is at a restaurant downtown in SoHo called Raoul’s. Raoul’s is known for only making 12 hamburgers per day. 12 hamburgers. The line begins to form at 4:30 PM, an hour before the kitchen opens, and if you are lucky to get to order one of these 12 burgers you may only enjoy it at the bar. David Honeysett, chef at Raoul’s admits that, “If anyone could order a burger, it would really interfere with dinner service..Our check average now is much higher than what a burger would produce.”

Clark Wolf, a local restaurant consultant sums up the fake scarcity phenomenon by expressing that, “In New York, people love getting what they can’t have or fighting for it..running out can create drama and notoriety.” To read more about the marketing principle of limited supply in the New York City food scene, click here


  1. Hey; thanks for sharing the interesting post! It’s interesting to see the similarities in food and fashion. Scarcity definitely makes consumers purchase differently from when a product is widely and easily available.

    I want to share my point of view, as a restaurant professional:
    The concept of fake scarcity sounds a bit harsh. It’s just a business trying to profitable by minimizing waste. thousands of pounds of food are wasted every day in NYC, so I think that this scarcity is a movement towards more sustainable and conscious business practices. Waste is not only unethical in that it perfectly food is disposed of in a way that does not benefit people, but it is also a huge burden on the environment and an expense for the business!

    Fresh food is perishable and should be valued and enjoyed; not overproduced to satisfy everyone.


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