The burger economy

Joel Hernandez
Insights Newsletter
24 August, 2018

Gluttony. The two weeks since Wellington on a Plate (WOAP) began have been glorious gluttony.

As Chief Burger Officer (CBO) of The New Zealand Initiative I was tasked with tasting and reviewing a sample of the multitude of burgers for Burger Wellington as well as investigate the burger economy.

Across all my years of WOAP and Burger Wellington, this year has been the best, not because of the overall quality of burgers I ate, but because of my experience and participation within the burger community and burger market.

Don’t get me wrong, the burgers this year have been sublime, it’s the first year I’ve given a burger a perfect 10/10. But what really got me this year was the power of the burger market, and how it can lead to optimal burger consumption when you have more information.

The greatest contributing factor to this emerging market has been the ‘Burger Wellington – WOAP’ Facebook page. Here, fellow burger lovers and connoisseurs can share reviews of their best and worst burgers during WOAP.

The result is a market moving towards perfect information and an excellent example of an economic market that knows more than the individuals that make it up.

Without this shared knowledge you would have a difficult task of navigating your way around the 180 options available to you.

Unfortunately, where there is a market there can also be market inefficiencies, especially when there’s a burger price ceiling.  

Both surprisingly and unsurprisingly, I experienced a burger shortage, or if you err on the side of the dramatic, a burger crisis. At the end of the first week I found myself waiting in line for the ‘Brewed to the Bone’ burger from Wilson Barbecue @ The Third Eye.

While in line, me and fellow burger connoisseurs gushed over our favourite burgers, as well as discouraged others from our worse ones.

We also pondered why, with a line this long, there wasn’t a black market for burgers appearing.

What was stopping some enterprising salesman at the front of the que from selling his burger to hungry individuals at the back of the line for a higher price?

Was the threat of punishment from fellow burger lovers too high, or was the burger so good that it wasn’t worth selling for any amount of money?

I just missed out, so I can’t tell you if the burger was worth it, all I could taste was the deadweight loss from missing out.

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