AT MOST RESTAURANTS, YOU get what you pay for, but at Juliano's Family Restaurant, it is the other way around. With no prices on the menu, customers are asked to pay according to what their palates -- and consciences -- tell them.
"I didn't to it to make the business any greater," says owner Jerry Juliano, who erased all figures from the 19-dish menu last December. "I think the Lord guided me to do it to show people they should trust each other."
Whatever the inspiration, the results have been heavenly. Never mind all those business-school tomes about pricing strategies. For Juliano, having no price at all has increased sales 25%, to an average of $6,000 a month. Patronage has soared at the 48-seat eatery in Warrendale, Pa., located about 25 miles north of Pittsburgh. So far, most customers are "coming pretty close to the prices I had," Juliano says. Only two diners have left without plunking down a cent. But Juliano expects to be ripped off now and then. "What makes me feel good is that they ate everything," he notes dryly.
One of Juliano's diners, a meat supplier, was so impressed with the strategy that he offered Juliano no-price meat if he would become a customer. Juliano accepted, and now sets his own prices. "I never test him to see how low I can go," he says. "I don't want to hurt him, so I see if he can meet my price without a problem."
Lest you think this might go too far, Juliano drew the line when he recently hired two employees. He left salaries to his discretion.