Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that they don’t mind a nice meal out at a restaurant. After all, where else can you enjoy delicious food with your favorite company in a (usually) classy atmosphere? We’ve grown so accustomed to eating out, in fact, that were rarely stop to think about the work restaurants put into controlling every aspect of our dining experience.
Rest assured, there are teams of people analyzing every fine detail and coming up with new ways to help sway you in one direction or another. From the fonts used on their menus to the pricing, there are countless tricks that restaurants employ in an attempt to convince you to spend more cash.
If you’re like us and you dine out a lot, you’ll want to know these 16 tricks…
1. They use over-the-top adjectives to describe their menu items: If you’ve been out to eat recently, you’ve likely noticed that instead of calling something like Buffalo wings as, simply, “Buffalo wings,” menus will describe them in ways that make you salivate. (Think: “tender” or “juicy.”)
2. They avoid using dollar signs on their menus: Most restaurants know that their diners are eating on a budget, so they’ll avoid using this symbol so as not to remind you that you’re spending money. Who knew that without the accompanying symbol, people are much more willing to spend their cash?
3. They price items so you’ll buy more: Have you ever noticed that menu items ending in .99 cents always seem that much cheaper than those with a full dollar amount? Well, this psychological trick really works. Some restaurants will even dip their prices to .85 or .89, because it seems much less expensive to customers.
4. They give menu items family names: Which sounds more enticing: “spaghetti dinner” or “Grandma’s homemade Italian spaghetti?” The latter, of course! Almost everyone is going to spring for the meal that makes them most nostalgic for their own grandmother’s cooking.
5. They give their mundane menu items authentic-sounding names: This is most common in Italian restaurants, especially in chains like Olive Garden. Calling the soups and salads section Zuppe e Insalate just sounds so much more appetizing, right?
6. They tag-team with big brands to make you want more: Not only are people more likely to buy products from brand names they trust, but they do so because it sounds more legitimate. That’s exactly why TGI Fridays sells so much of their Jack Daniels BBQ sauce burgers and ribs.
7. They place expensive items close to other more expensive items: Known as anchor items, when you see an expensive item close to one that’s even more expensive, you’re more likely to spring for the lesser of the two. But guess what: you’re still spending more than you would like to!
8. Certain items are highlighted to make them seem more special than they are: Take a look at the Chef’s Special section below. Notice anything special about those items? No, they’re mostly more of the same that you can find on either side of the menu, but because of the name, you’re more likely to purchase those more expensive products.
9. The second-least expensive wine will be priced higher than it’s worth: This may seem strange, but it’s because people don’t want to buy the least expensive wine from the list—no one wants to look cheap—so they’ll typically spring for the second least expensive. With that logic, they get you to spend more while you believe you’re spending less.
10. They purposely make it hard to compare prices: There are many ways that restaurants make it difficult to compare prices of two items. Either they’ll hid the prices in strange places, use wacky fonts, or put items on different pages.
11. They utilize the “right next door” tactic: This trick has a direct connection to anchor items. It’s typically just a little less expensive than those items and just so happens to be placed right next to them. So when you crave the anchor but can’t afford it, guess where you’re headed… right next door!
12. They make the most bland items sound tasty with buzzwords: Have you ever noticed that healthy restaurants have a tendency to call items like beets “beet roots?” That’s because it makes them sound special, but really, beets are roots, so there’s nothing special about that item at all. It just costs more!
13. Menu item placement is crucial: Research has proven that people tend to look at the top-right side of a menu first. As a response, they’ll place their most expensive items there, and they place the least expensive on the bottom-left and make it harder to read with small fonts.
14. They put regular items in photo boxes: While they’re pretty sure they can hook you with just a savory description of their food, they know that by adding a mouthwatering photo, you’ll be more likely to actually buy that item.
15. They keep their portion sizes vague for half-sandwich, half-soup deals: This technique is known as bracketing. Essentially, the half sizes are usually more expensive, so you still pay more even though you’re getting less. They also don’t tell you the full size, so you have no way of knowing how much food you’re actually ordering.
16. They know what item you’re going to buy: There’s a good chance that the restaurant knows what you’re going to buy before you even order. That’s because most people choose the first item from any given menu section. With that knowledge, restaurants will drive up the prices of those items.
There are really so many techniques restaurants use to make you spend more. Looks like it might be time to start cooking at home, huh?
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