Café World Economics: Profit & Cafe Points

I suppose it was inevitable.  There comes a point when you have reached a level of wealth in Farmville where you can buy anything (even the Villa).  A point when you have enough experience that you can plant any crop.

It’s natural at that point for the eye to wander, seeking out the next great Zynga game.  And for me, that happened a little over a week ago when I decided to take the plunge into Cafe World.


Cafe World has a number of elements that I had originally suggested for Farmville:  animated sims, shorter time spans, more functional enhancements.  It’s a much more complicated simulation, and as a result, it took me quite a bit longer to get the hang of it.

There are a few very interesting new aspects to the game that make modeling the economics difficult.  Expect future posts from me on how to model “The Buzz Factor”, which affects the velocity that your food is consumed over time, and how to model “Spoilage”, which is similar to Farmville but more absolute.

A couple quick tips, for the fans out there:

  • Your Buzz Rating drops by 1.0 for every customer who comes in and leaves without food.  The minimum is 5.0, the maximum is 105.0.  There are two ways to preserve it, however.  First, when you run out of food, remove the doors on your restaurant.  This will close the cafe, and keep your Buzz rating flat.  Second, your buzz rating will not fall if you are not actually running the game.  That means it’s safe to run out of food, as long as you aren’t watching…
  • If you block your waiter(s) in, then they will serve the food infinitely fast.  This is just like the Farmer trick from Farmville.  I highly recommend doing this with the three serving stations against a corner.  One warning – for this to work, you need to give the waiter/waitress *two* squares of freedom.  With just one, it doesn’t seem to work.

To get things started, however, I thought I’d just run the simple numbers on profitability and experience for each recipe.  I found elements of this information on various posts across the web.  (Here is one from Cafe World Strategy.  Here is another from Cyberanto.  This one was the best, from Simple Think.)  Unfortunately, no one seems to know the Café Points experience breakdown between preparing & serving the Impossible Quiche… I guess no one is at that level yet. (I had to guess in my table).

First, profitability.  Each dish below is normalized as follows:

  • All values are normalized for a 24 hours day
  • A “cycle” is based on cooking time, but includes the cost & cafe points for cleaning the oven once
  • I assume an infinitely fast player for cleaning/preparing/serving

Dish Profit / Day Profit / Hour Min Per Cycle
Bacon Cheeseburger 6336.0 264.0 5.0
Overstuffed Peppers 5970.0 248.8 720.0
Kung Pao Stir Fry 5910.0 246.3 240.0
Fiery Fish Tacos 5880.0 245.0 120.0
King Crab Bisque 5370.0 223.8 1440.0
Chips and Guacamole 5280.0 220.0 3.0
Impossible Quiche 5092.5 212.2 2880.0
Powdered French Toast 4824.0 201.0 20.0
Super Chunk Fruit Salad 4800.0 200.0 15.0
Tony’s Classic Pizza 4248.0 177.0 300.0
Chicken Gyro and Fries 4032.0 168.0 10.0
Voodoo Chicken Salad 3920.0 163.3 720.0
Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail 3264.0 136.0 30.0
Spaghetti and Meatballs 3255.0 135.6 480.0
Tikka Masala Kabobs 3120.0 130.0 60.0
Spitfire Roasted Chicken 2585.0 107.7 1440.0
French Onion Soup 2550.0 106.3 240.0
Triple Berry Cheesecake 2470.0 102.9 720.0
Caramel Apples 2340.0 97.5 120.0
Homestyle Pot Roast 1967.5 82.0 2880.0
Vampire Staked Steak 1695.0 70.6 1440.0
Pumpkin Pie 1690.0 70.4 720.0

The next table shows the same information, but for Café Points instead of profit. This is more useful if your primary concern is “leveling up”.

Dish CP / Day CP / Hour Min Per Cycle
Bacon Cheeseburger 2016.0 84.0 5.0
Chicken Gyro and Fries 2016.0 84.0 10.0
Chips and Guacamole 1920.0 80.0 3.0
Powdered French Toast 1512.0 63.0 20.0
Super Chunk Fruit Salad 1344.0 56.0 15.0
Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail 1008.0 42.0 30.0
Fiery Fish Tacos 588.0 24.5 120.0
Tikka Masala Kabobs 528.0 22.0 60.0
Kung Pao Stir Fry 450.0 18.8 240.0
Caramel Apples 420.0 17.5 120.0
Overstuffed Peppers 412.0 17.2 720.0
French Onion Soup 366.0 15.3 240.0
Voodoo Chicken Salad 336.0 14.0 720.0
Tony’s Classic Pizza 326.4 13.6 300.0
Spaghetti and Meatballs 300.0 12.5 480.0
Triple Berry Cheesecake 280.0 11.7 720.0
King Crab Bisque 252.0 10.5 1440.0
Spitfire Roasted Chicken 210.0 8.8 1440.0
Impossible Quiche 175.5 7.3 2880.0
Pumpkin Pie 152.0 6.3 720.0
Homestyle Pot Roast 139.5 5.8 2880.0
Vampire Staked Steak 113.0 4.7 1440.0

Two things seem clear to me from these tables:

  1. Overstuffed Peppers is the dish to beat.  12 hours cooking time means you don’t have to babysit the game endlessly.  One of the most profitable, and does a fair job of building experience.
  2. Fast Food is King. If you have the patience and time, serving burgers can’t be beat.  All the numbers are incredibly weighted towards the foods with short cycles.  After all, when you can literally serve something 288 times in a single day, that’s a huge multiplier.

In future posts, I’ll try to rebalance these numbers across risk of spoilage and personal time value, to bring some sense to the madness.  I can tell already, however, that the Overstuffed Peppers is going to be the best balance of time & profit.  Of course, my cafe is still dawdling at Level 14…

Update:  New Café World Economics posts are available:

Farmville Economics: Flowers & Updated Tables

Zynga launched several new crops this week in the form of cut flowers, so I thought I’d update my tables for active players out there.  So yes, this is Yet Another Farmville Post (YAFP).


For quick reference, here are the links to my first six Farmville posts:

I’ve updated my tables to include both Sweet Seeds and the new cut flowers.  You’ll notice that, as per my last post, Sweets Seeds really aren’t as good as they should be.  At least, it’s not clear to me why Super Berries were so much better.

Please remember, all tables normalize the values for one square per day (24 hour day), and include the cost and experience involved with plowing the square per cycle.

Here are the crops, ranked by Profit / Day:

Crop Profit / Day
Super Berries 900.00
Asparagus 183.00
Sugar Cane 177.00
Peas 176.00
Tomatoes 174.00
Green Tea 170.40
Grapes 170.00
Onions 166.00
Sunflowers 165.00
Ghost Chili 164.00
Coffee 162.00
Blackberries 162.00
Lillies 159.00
Blueberries 156.00
Carrots 150.00
Raspberries 132.00
Broccoli 129.00
Cabbage 116.50
Sugar Cane 104.50
Sweet Seeds 100.00
Red Wheat 84.67
Aloe Vera 80.00
Peppers 77.00
Yellow Mellon 77.00
Rice 72.00
Corn 71.67
Red Tulips 69.00
Pumpkin 69.00
Pineapple 66.00
Potatoes 65.00
Strawberries 60.00
Pink Roses 59.50
Yellow Bell 54.00
Watermelon 50.75
Cotton 39.00
Squash 33.00
Soybeans 33.00
Daffodils 30.00
Artichoke 29.75
Eggplant 24.00
Wheat 21.67

Here are the crops ranked by Experience per Day:

Crop XP / Day Cycle (Hours)
Super Berries 24.00 2.00
Blueberries 12.00 4.00
Raspberries 12.00 2.00
Strawberries 12.00 4.00
Blackberries 12.00 4.00
Aloe Vera 8.00 6.00
Ghost Chili 8.00 6.00
Tomatoes 6.00 8.00
Pumpkin 6.00 8.00
Sugar Cane 6.00 8.00
Green Tea 4.80 10.00
Asparagus 4.50 16.00
Rice 4.00 12.00
Sweet Seeds 4.00 24.00
Carrots 4.00 12.00
Peas 4.00 24.00
Onions 4.00 12.00
Grapes 3.00 24.00
Red Tulips 3.00 24.00
Peppers 3.00 24.00
Soybeans 3.00 24.00
Sunflowers 3.00 24.00
Coffee 3.00 16.00
Lillies 3.00 24.00
Broccoli 2.50 48.00
Pink Roses 1.50 48.00
Pineapple 1.50 48.00
Yellow Bell 1.50 48.00
Daffodils 1.50 48.00
Squash 1.50 48.00
Eggplant 1.50 48.00
Sugar Cane 1.50 48.00
Cabbage 1.50 48.00
Cotton 1.00 72.00
Wheat 1.00 72.00
Red Wheat 1.00 72.00
Corn 1.00 72.00
Potatoes 1.00 72.00
Watermelon 0.75 96.00
Artichoke 0.75 96.00
Yellow Mellon 0.75 96.00

Here are the crops ranked by a sum of profit and experience per day (see previous posts for why I ascribe 15 coins to the value of one point of experience):

Crop Profit + XP / Day
Super Berries 1260.00
Blackberries 342.00
Blueberries 336.00
Raspberries 312.00
Ghost Chili 284.00
Sugar Cane 267.00
Tomatoes 264.00
Asparagus 250.50
Green Tea 242.40
Strawberries 240.00
Peas 236.00
Onions 226.00
Grapes 215.00
Carrots 210.00
Sunflowers 210.00
Coffee 207.00
Lillies 204.00
Aloe Vera 200.00
Broccoli 166.50
Sweet Seeds 160.00
Pumpkin 159.00
Cabbage 139.00
Rice 132.00
Sugar Cane 127.00
Peppers 122.00
Red Tulips 114.00
Red Wheat 99.67
Pineapple 88.50
Yellow Mellon 88.25
Corn 86.67
Pink Roses 82.00
Potatoes 80.00
Soybeans 78.00
Yellow Bell 76.50
Watermelon 62.00
Squash 55.50
Cotton 54.00
Daffodils 52.50
Eggplant 46.50
Artichoke 41.00
Wheat 36.67

And finally, the most important table: Risk Adjusted Profitability.  This takes into account the risk of spoilage and the time it takes for each crop to harvest.  I’ve found this to be the best table to answer the question of “what should you plant”:

Crop Risk-Adjusted Profit / Day Risk of Complete Default
Peas 226.53 12.97%
Broccoli 217.37 1.68%
Grapes 206.37 12.97%
Sunflowers 201.57 12.97%
Lillies 195.82 12.97%
Asparagus 185.57 25.62%
Cabbage 181.47 1.68%
Sugar Cane 165.80 1.68%
Super Berries 154.22 84.35%
Sweet Seeds 153.58 12.97%
Coffee 153.35 25.62%
Red Wheat 142.52 0.22%
Onions 135.58 36.01%
Yellow Mellon 130.15 0.03%
Green Tea 126.03 42.69%
Carrots 125.98 36.01%
Corn 123.93 0.22%
Peppers 117.11 12.97%
Sugar Cane 115.57 50.61%
Pineapple 115.54 1.68%
Potatoes 114.40 0.22%
Tomatoes 114.27 50.61%
Red Tulips 109.43 12.97%
Pink Roses 107.05 1.68%
Yellow Bell 99.87 1.68%
Ghost Chili 96.00 60.01%
Watermelon 91.44 0.03%
Blackberries 80.30 71.14%
Rice 79.19 36.01%
Blueberries 78.89 71.14%
Cotton 77.22 0.22%
Soybeans 74.87 12.97%
Squash 72.46 1.68%
Pumpkin 68.82 50.61%
Daffodils 68.54 1.68%
Aloe Vera 67.61 60.01%
Eggplant 60.71 1.68%
Artichoke 60.47 0.03%
Strawberries 56.35 71.14%
Wheat 52.43 0.22%
Raspberries 38.19 84.35%

Stay tuned for my next post, my very first on Café World, my new Zynga addiction.  Very different simulation & economics, and should be good for a few interesting analytical posts.

Updates: I’ve now posted follow-on posts about Farmville Economics:

The Best Hedge for Crisis: Gold, Dollar or Both?

I’ve been encouraged by a few friends to spend a bit more time writing blog posts about finance and economics in the real world, as opposed to Farmville.  (Hopefully the Zynga fans will allow me brief distraction with the real world.)

An article last week in the Wall Street Journal on investing in gold reminded me of a topic I had meant to cover this past summer:

What is the best hedge for a crisis?

The last two years have validated the fundamental premise of The Black Swan theory.  That premise is that, due to incomplete information and faulty statistical assumptions, the market generally underprices risk at the “tails” of the distribution.

In other words, while the outcomes of the market tend to look like a normal distribution, in reality, more “rare” events happen than would be predicted mathematically.

Given a potential fear of crisis, what is the best way to hedge?  What’s the best way to have some fundamental security in the face of these events?

For Nassim Taleb, the author, he has made his investment approach well known.  He keeps the vast majority of his money in cash, and periodically invests a small percentage in out-of-the-money puts on the market. In 2008, this made for extremely high returns (between 65% and 115%).

Unfortunately, this is such an extreme approach, it’s hard to recommend it as a general practice for anyone but the most stalwart intellectual and contrarian.

If you read any financial press, or listen to AM radio, you likely have heard a much more common refrain about a hedge against crists:  Gold.

Gold has historically been pitched as the ultimate hedge against inflation and crisis.  You can literally find websites that explain how to not only buy gold bullion, but how to effectively bury it in your yard in such a way that it won’t come up on satellite photos (in case the US Government chooses to confiscate it again, like FDR did in 1933.)  I’m not kidding.

Because fascination with gold goes back basically as long as recorded history, it’s rare to find new information on the topic.

This article in Seeking Alpha, however, caught my eye, as a rare piece that had something new to say about investing in Gold.

July 9: A Golden Hedge Against The Dreaded Dollar

This article highlights a well known point – that recently, when the market collapsed, gold actually collapsed with it.  In fact, if you look at the charts, in the past decade, gold and the market look like their moving together.  This makes it a terrible hedge, because good hedges are supposed to be decoupled.

In truth, GLD does appear to be a venerable contender for a portion of a well-diversified portfolio. Yet in a “black swan/perfect storm catastrophe” like the 3 month, systemic breakdown of 2008 (September through November), GLD dropped an astonishing -30%.  PowerShares DB U.S. Dollar Bullish (UUP) soared 20%.

What’s interesting, however, is that in these periods, a very surprising asset has done well: The US Dollar.  The author goes on to advocate for a split between the US Dollar Bullish ETF and Gold.

The article shows this chart, which tracks gold and the US dollar over the past two years:

The insight here is not that you should split your “crisis” holdings between Gold and the Dollar.  Most Americans are already heavily weighted in dollar holdings.   The insight is simply that gold actually doesn’t cover you in all crises, despite the protestations of the gold bugs.

Indeed, I would like to see this relationship going back over the past century, to see what possible approaches might make sense:

  • A balanced approach?
  • A reciprocal trade where you sell into strength of one, and buy the other?
  • Relationships between various mixes of gold & dollar to hedge a stock portfolio?

My guess is that a dollar-denominated fixed income allocation (Treasuries) would look similar to dollar bullish, and would fit a more traditional view of asset allocation.

Farmville Economics: Sweet Seeds are Almost Genius…

Zynga launched a great promotion this weekend called “Sweet Seeds”, and I thought it deserved at least a little direct attention.  So yes, this is “yet another Farmville post” (YAFP).


For quick reference, here are the links to my first five Farmville posts:

A brief description from Farmville Village:

Zynga has just launched “Sweet Seeds for Haiti” a special FarmCash crop you can buy with 50% of the proceeds going to charity. These plants are unique in that they never wither and give maximum experience points, with a special gift in your gift box for you, too!

My first reaction to this announcement was “Genius!”   Not to be cynical, but Zynga seemed to have a pattern of rolling out crops with superior economics and rapid turnarounds to help drive huge activity spikes.  (The Super Berries in August, for example, were well timed with a surge over 10M daily active users.)

By rolling out a super-charged crop for charity, they could get the benefit of increased activity and funnel money to a deserving cause.  Win-win.  It seemed like a brilliant approach to match up business & altruistic goals, and set forward a powerful concept of buying virtual goods as a mechanism for charitable fundraising.

In fact, at first, the only thing that surprised me a bit was that only 50% of the money was going to charity.  I suppose there might be some costs associated with payment processing and handling the operational surge of activity.  Typically, however, if you are going for a charity, you tend to absorb those costs to avoid the appearance of profiting from people who are looking to donate to a good cause.

Then I actually looked at the economics for Sweet Potatoes.  And I was left scratching my head.

The stats for Sweet Potatoes are as follows:

  • 3 XP
  • 10 coins to plant
  • 125 coins at harvest

By itself, these statistics would make Sweet Potatoes truly a super crop, except for one detail:

  • 1 day to grow

115 Coins of profit per day puts Sweet Potatoes between Broccoli & Cabbage for daily profit, #16 on the table I published last week.  Really not very super.  Super Berries had huge numbers because they could be harvested every 2 hours.  But a full day?  You’d do better on experience and profit planting almost any of the 8 hour (or faster growing) crops.

3XP (+1XP for plowing) does compare favorably with all daily crops, except for Peas.  Peas offer:

  • 3 XP
  • 176 coins of profit / day

As far as I can tell, there is absolutely no reason you would plant Sweet Potatoes if you already have Peas.  None.  And it certainly wouldn’t be worth $5 (25 FV) to do so.  True, this crop doesn’t whither… but that just makes the activity goal even more unlikely.

All this would be different if the crop took 4 hours to grow instead of a day.  But with the current numbers, planting Sweet Potatoes just doesn’t make any sense.

I’m going to hazard a few guesses as to why Zynga set these numbers here:

  • Theory 1: They didn’t care about people at higher levels.  Of my 50 neighbors, only one is at a level where they can buy Peas. So these numbers would look good to at least 98% of the audience.
  • Theory 2: The target market is sensitive to time.  The 1 day cycle and removal of withering suggests that they were targeting a segment of users that don’t want to spend all day planting & harvesting.
  • Theory 3: The load generated by Farmville has been so high on Zynga given it’s phenomenal success, they decided last minute to extend the growing time to a day, to minimize activity for a period of time.  In a way, the Sweet Potatoes are Bizarro Super Berries, working to diminish activity, instead of encourage it.
  • Theory 4: They didn’t run the numbers on the economics.  (I find this impossible to believe.)

I still believe the concept behind the Sweet Seeds announcement incredibly sharp.  Plenty of time and opportunity for Zynga to tune these type of events going forward.

Almost genius.  Almost.

Update:  Here are additional posts on Farmville Economics, published after this one: