How much should a salad cost? $5? $10? $100?
“Should” is a dangerous game to play. Free-market economists would tell you that salads should cost as much as the market is willing to pay. At Terminal 4 in LAX, Campanile is charging $18 for a salad (plus tax) and the market seems prepared to pay it. One writer over at Jaunted is very, very upset about this. The salad in question? Campanile’s Whole Leaf Caesar Salad with red onion, shaved parmesan, garlic croutons, cracked black pepper, and chicken. To be fair, the salad costs only $14 without the chicken. You don’t even get a bunch of ingredients in there. It’s just a Caesar salad with chicken.
The writer of the article goes into price-gouging and how we enable airport vendors to charge higher prices once we get past security because we willingly pay those prices without a major protest. He mentions that we have to fight back and Phoenix Sky Harbor is setting the right example by offering food that has no mark-up over what it costs at the non-airport version of the restaurant. Here’s the thing, though… that salad? It costs exactly as much as it did when Campanile had a brick and mortar restaurant. Crazy, right? This guy’s outraged, but at the same time his points are all rendered moot by the actual facts.
I’m not defending a salad that costs this much. I, for one, wouldn’t spend that money for lettuce and dressing with a few extras thrown in, but that’s not to say that other people (*cough* business travelers with expense accounts *cough*) wouldn’t think twice about dropping that money for a well-made salad with high quality ingredients.
The topic of paying what amounts to a Traveler Tax just because you’re eating inside an airport is a contentious one. I’ve never understood why vendors get to overcharge in comparison to other locations, but in this case, there’s no overcharging. That’s just the cost of the salad — at LAX or anywhere else. Does that make it right? No. Does that mean there’s less to quibble about? You better believe it.
If you don’t want to pay $18 for a chicken Caesar salad, don’t order it. We all are imbued with the inalienable right to pick and choose what we spend our money on and if you’d rather spend that money on a neck pillow that you’ll inevitably throw away soon after you land, then so be it.
Would you pay $18 for a salad at an airport? Let me know in the comments.