The goal: Sell high volumes of premium alcohol. 

The vulnerability: Instant gratification plus premium product equals volume sales. 

What changed: ‘Push for champagne’ eradicated the multiple moments for buyers to choose something cheaper (or more sensible). This little button removed all the friction between product and consumer. Instant gratification. 

The exploit: They stole the ‘single click to buy’ button from the internet and pulled it into the real world. 

The result: Bob Bob ricard pours more champagne than any other restaurant in the UK. 

Bob Bob Ricard is a rather quirky restaurant in London’s Soho. Founded in 2008, it polarized food and interiors critics from the outset. AA Gill described it as “Liberace’s bathroom dropped into a Texan diner” and gave it a savage zero stars, while in the same year, it scooped a bevy of top notch awards.

Despite rubbing a number of critics up the wrong way – Bob Bob Ricard has evolved into a stalwart of London’s dining scene, made famous, not by David Collin’s orient express inspired luxury interiors, but by one clever little subversive menu hack. 

Push for Champagne. 

Restaurants are notoriously hard to get right, especially in London. Concepts and themes run faster than your stomach the morning after a stiff vindaloo. (There are more than 10,000 curry houses in London alone, in case you were wondering). 

When BBR opened in Soho in 2008, it bore all the hallmarks of a place that would leverage novelty but would eventually be destined for “trashcan of history” as one critic in the Observer cited. An mish mash interiors, mixing French, American and Russian influences, and a high end menu, the interiors were “foreign and weird”, with lobster mac and cheese sitting on the same menu as beef wellington, caviar and waffles, all served in a simulacrum of the Orient express crossed with a vintage American diner. 

Like all great marketing hacks, it seems super obvious in hindsight. Once the bowler hat clad doorman ushers you inside, and the pink clad waiters seat you at the plush banquette, wouldn’t every single one of you fight to be the one that gets to push the button first?

Consider the usual ordering process at a silver service restaurant. Push for champagne eradicates at least three friction steps between you and your bubbly reward. No price list, no menu review, no watier interaction, no time for sensible second thoughts. Just… BING. Instant gratification. 

How did BBR’s come to develop this little gem? We’d love to know, but one theory might be from the airline industry. BBR’s owner is Russian Leonid Shutov. It’s delightfully perfect that prior to opening one of London’s most flamboyantly fun restaurants, he spent 10 years at the helm of Ogilvy in Russia. So, a veteran of many a nice meal, and used to looking at human behavioural influences. One would expect, also used to flying. And where else do we see a call bell for beverages? Even in the cheapest of airline seats, we all get access to a booze bell, oh and the occasional pillow. 

BBR has stolen other winning ideas from the aviation industry too – in 2018 they introduced ‘off peak’ rates. A three tiered pricing system enabled them to drive traffic to quiet periods for maximum profitability, something airlines have done for donkeys. 

Interestingly we see the reverse model in operation in Dublin’s Temple Bar, a pedestrianised area of old Dublin, jammed with traditional bars, live music and all the stag parties in the world. Here, scarcity and impatience is used to great effect, where pups increase the prices they charge as the night goes on, and things get busier. Unlike many other cities, Irish licensing laws close pubs from as early as 11pm, with late licenses available up to 2.30am. So, you have an extremely popular boozing destination, an inebriated customer base, and a limited amount of time to extract as much money as possible. If you can’t squeeze any more people in the door (and trust me, they’ve tried) the only way you can make more money without a cover charge or getting them to drink faster, is to increase prices.

Interestingly, there’s not that much difference between the price of a glass of champagne at BBRs and the most expensive single drink after midnight in Temple Bar. 

Push for champagne is a perfectly brilliant little subversion that works on a number of levels. If we look at the principles of gamification, with respect to human centric design and insight, ‘push the button’ taps into empowerment, ownership and social influence. It also ties directly into scarcity and impatience. Champagne is usually the most expensive item on the menu. It’s ostentatious, celebratory, frivolous and hedonistic.

‘Push for champagne’ is a design adaptation to traditional ordering processes that leverages human desire, to maximum effect.