Restaurant owners may look like they’re in the trade for the satisfaction of providing tasty food to the masses, but they are businesspeople like any others. In addition to learning how to make and present the best dishes in the most desirable surroundings, they have to figure out how to make a profit from what they do.
When you walk into a restaurant, there are any number of tricks at play to get you spending, and you normally won’t even notice you’re being manipulated. It doesn’t mean you should feel bitter towards the restaurant owner and their team – they have to make a living after all – but it is worth knowing a few of the games they play so you can ensure that you’re not spending more than you intend to on your big night out.
Naturally, the menu is where many of these techniques find their home. Regardless of total price, some dishes are more profitable than others due to the different ingredients used and how much of it can be made in one go. Items that are presented in their own special boxes on the menu page may seem special because they are set apart from the ordinary listed items. Try to read the listed items first before you are seduced by the tasty description of the specials – the box is designed to draw your attention there before you spot a bargain!
Another trick that menu designers use to get you buying what they want you to buy, is to give profitable dishes a name that makes them sound ‘homey’. This might mean they are named something like ‘Grandma’s Famous Bean Dish’ or ‘Uncle Roy’s Pea Soup’. Unless you have personal experience of Grandma’s cooking (or Uncle Roy’s), concentrate only on the tangible qualities of the description: the flavors and ingredients.
Sometimes the menu is designed in a way to trick you into thinking that you’re getting a bargain. For example, the size of the dish may be described in a way that has no objective meaning – such as half/full measures. The ‘half’ size is more than half the price of the full size, so you go for the full size because it seems like a bargain – even though you have no idea how big it will be and whether you will even eat it all. It’s best to check how big the plates are before you order, by asking the waiter to point out somebody that’s eating the same thing.
Another false bargain effect is created with the use of a single super-expensive dish. In this case, nobody’s going to buy something that’s ten bucks more than the next cheapest dish – but they’ll probably think that everything else looks relatively cheap, and opt for something that is still more expensive than it needs to be. Take your time when comparing prices of different dishes, and check out the items in the lower left quadrant of the menu – it’s where designers often hide the bargains because our eyes tend to drift there last of all.
It’s not all about the menu, though. Researchers have proved that listening to classical music makes us feel wealthier – so restaurants will often play music like this to trick you into spending more when you’re inside. If you notice that a restaurant is playing classical music, try to make your decisions before you go in, by checking the online menu or the one in the window.
This new infographic from Quid Corner gives the full lowdown on these and other tricks that restaurants use to get you spending more. Learn these lessons well, and you can have a delicious meal out – without the bitter aftertaste of feeling ripped-off.