Did you know that every time you dine out, you are being hoodwinked! Tricked! Deceived! Verily subterfuged! Ok, we aren’t 100% certain that is the correct usage of the word subterfuge, but what we are trying to say is that restaurants are wily, and they have mastered their craft! It’s a good thing we love dining out so much or this list of 10 ways restaurants trick you into eating more would be the worst!
- The ol’ Mississippi Diversion. Menu writers meticulously study how people read their menus and they identify scanpaths. A scanpath is the order in which the average reader glances through a menu. Research shows that 30% of consumers will buy the first item that they see, so restaurants place menu items accordingly.
- The Hemingway Effect. Descriptive language is designed to help you experience the food before you taste it — but it will also make you want to buy it! Research has shown that descriptive menus can sell as much as 25% more. And who among us hasn’t caved for dessert when the chocolate lava cake is lightly drizzled with gooey fudge and delicately topped with shaved almonds.
- Devil’s Torture Chamber. Ambiance matters! Believe it or not research has shown that playing French or German classical music can cause patrons to order either French or German wine. Likewise, cheap pop music can decrease sales in a typical family style restaurant by as much as 30%. Everything can factor into a client’s comfort level — lighting, layout, and linens. Good restaurants have these down to a science!
- Pick a Door. One of the hardest things for a restaurant to do is to offer just the right number of options. Too many and customers will be indecisive; too few and they may not find anything they like! Industry wisdom on menu writing is that there should be no more than six options per category, or seven to ten at finer dining establishments.
- The Elastic Lady Trick. Order the combo platter and you’ll get a lot more food for just a little extra money! Don’t think the restaurant is taking a hit on this deal, in reality they just make a lot more money when you pay extra for items separately. The price they set for the combo platter is still well within their profit margins!
- The Disappearing Rabbit. Ok, not exactly, but kind of! Have you ever seen dollar signs on menu prices? If you have, that would be the exception. By leaving dollar signs off of menu prices restaurants make the cost seem more agreeable, less like it 1. is coming out of your wallet and more abstract. “Do I want the steak for 18 or the steak for 24? Well the 24 steak must be better, so I’ll get that one!”
- Origami. Menus are an art form. Many mid-level establishments will visually highlight certain items with pictures or larger font. If you have studied art appreciation, you may begin to notice some of the basics in the menus you see — red colors, irregular shapes, and other tricks all pull your eyes in various directions.
- The Scarecrow. The technical term for this trick is actually called “bracketing”, the process by which restaurants put items on the menu with artificially high prices just to make the other items seem more affordable. This diversion is actually a very common sales trick used in many industries, but we’ve all fallen for it in restaurants!
- Merlin’s Beard. If you aren’t a magician with numbers, you may not notice or care about this trick. We are all aware that a burger that costs $9.99 really costs $10.00. But even though we know that, we are still more likely to buy it if it is listed as $9.99, and even more so if it is only $9.95! Studies have shown that prices ending in 9 reflect value, and prices ending in 5 appear friendlier. The reverse can be true, though. Rounding prices up to even numbers can make menus look cleaner, which consumers like as well.
- The Rope Trick. Ever wondered why restaurants name their food after things we are familiar with or that sound ethnically exotic? Like “Uncle Joe’s Pastrami Sandwich”, or the “Kyoto Fire Sushi Roll”? Research has found that giving food a name that triggers nostalgia or intrigue drastically increases consumers’ interest. Just like the Irish Rope Trick — it’s just a rope trick, but it sounds way cooler if you call it Irish!
We thought these 10 tricks were interesting — especially because we love eating out so much. Next time you’re sitting down to order, take a look around and see if we are right!