Restaurants are a business, and just like any other, they want you to spend money. Once you are seated, they want you to spend as much money as possible, and they aren’t above using trickery to meet their goal. Here are 16 sneaky tricks designed to make you part with your hard-earned money.
1. They describe things in ridiculous ways.
Have you ever studied the words on a menu? The salad dressings are always “creamy,” the side dishes are “drenched in tangy sauce” and desserts are “decadent and indulgent.” These types of words trigger memories of delicious sensations in your brain, making your mouth water and bank account dwindle.
2. They rarely include a dollar sign.
The nicer the restaurant, the less likely it is that their menu will include a dollar sign. It’s a small psychological trick, but one that really works. They don’t want you to think about money – it’s the food that matters.
3. They play with their numbers.
For some reason, $9.99 always looks cheaper than $10. Although only a penny is saved, people are more likely to order meals ending in .99. Some restaurants even take the model to the next level by offering prices such as $9.85. Unconsciously, it becomes tempting to order more than you originally planned.
4. They reference things that make you feel at home.
This is especially true in diners, where “grandma’s apple pie” or “mom’s favorite casserole” is almost always on the menu. When nostalgia is triggered, the extra few dollars don’t seem to matter as much.
5. They use unfamiliar terms to make things seem more authentic.
Picture yourself in an Italian restaurant. Would you order the “shrimp spaghetti” or “shrimp scampi tagliatelle?” While the second sounds unique, the word “tagliatelle” simply means “noodles.” The description might as well read, “noodles, butter and shrimp,” but for those tired of American foods, the description promises excitement.
6. They use brand names.
A great example of this is TGI Friday’s use of Jack Daniels BBQ Sauce. Fans recognize the name, and are more likely to buy it for that simple reason.
7. They “anchor” items.
When offered a $10 entrée versus one that costs $20, the second seems incredibly expensive. But what if we were to add a meal that costs $30 or even $50? All of a sudden, the $20 option becomes a great deal.
8. They highlight random items to make them seem exciting.
Nearly every menu has a page featuring “chef specials.” These are often accompanied by pictures, and also happen to be more expensive than other offerings. Before you know it, you are thinking with your eyes, not your budget.
9. They make it difficult to compare prices.
Many expensive restaurants mix up the font and layout of their prices, making them incredibly hard to read and compare. As a result, patrons become distracted and don’t make decisions based on price.
10. They get sneaky with item layout.
Often, right next to an expensive anchor item will be something far cheaper. While this choice may save you money, it’s often the item with the highest profit margins for the restaurant.
11. They throw in useless terms to add excitement.
Why say “beet roots” when beets are, in fact, roots? Because it sounds better than just plain “beets,” and you are more likely to buy.
12. They organize the menu according to where you look.
Studies say, people tend to read the top right of a menu first, leaving the bottom for last. Guess where the most expensive item is? You guessed it: the upper-right-hand side. Reversely, cheaper items can be found on the bottom left.
13. They draw boxes around items.
It’s almost too simple – drawing a decorative box around an expensive item will catch your eye.
14. They are vague about portions.
This is called bracketing, and it’s something we’ve all seen. While you might only want a half-salad or half-sandwich, it’s priced to make the whole portion seem like a great deal. Amazingly, the whole process works without patrons knowing what the actual size will be until their food arrives.
15. They use the “number one” tactic.
Want an appetizer, pasta or salad? Chances are, the first of any menu category will be the most expensive. Studies have shown that the majority of people pick the first option presented, making this a great way for the restaurant to earn money.
When going out to eat, pay attention to these restaurant menu tricks. Order according to what your body needs, not what the restaurant tells you to get. You will be healthier and happier because of it.