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16 Sneaky Restaurant Menu Tricks That Tempt You To Spend More

16 Sneaky Restaurant Menu Tricks That Tempt You To Spend More

Just like any other business, restaurants are always trying to sell you more. Without money the restaurant can’t survive and that means they aren’t immune to the same kind of trickery other businesses engage in to make you spend more. Here are some sneaky restaurant menu tricks that try to talk you into spending more money.

1. They use ridiculous adjectives

menu tricks

    Have you ever just looked at the words on a menu? The ice cream is always “sweet and creamy”, buffalo wings may be “tender, juicy, and drenched in a delicious, tangy sauce”, and so on and so forth. Restaurants go through a great deal to make each dish sound as delicious as humanly possible. The reason is fairly obvious. When you’re hungry for ice cream, you imagine that cold, creamy, and sweet treat and your mouth just waters. Restaurants want your mouth to water because it’s money in their pocket.

    2. They don’t use dollar signs

    menu tricks

      Some restaurants do but the staggering majority of restaurant menus do not. When you see dollar signs, you think of money. They don’t want you to think of money. They want you to think of food. The removal of the dollar sign is a slight psychological trick but it’s quite effective. You may be more likely to buy something if you’re not reminded of the fact that it costs you money until after you’ve ordered it rather than before.

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      3. They use number trickery

      Practically everyone knows this one. Restaurants will turn a $10 meal into a $9.99 meal because it makes the same thing seem like a better bargain. Some still will use the $9.95 model to make it even more so. Some restaurant chains (including a very clever Chinese restaurant near where I live) will even use things like $9.85. When people are surfing prices, they’ll see the cheaper stuff and unconsciously want it more. Higher end restaurants don’t typically do this because if you’re going to an expensive place, you know you’re spending money so they don’t try to mess with you too much.

      4. They use family titles to entice customers

      Realistically speaking, which of the following are you more likely to buy? “Grandma’s fresh homemade chocolate cookies” or “chocolate chip cookies”? It’s okay if you said grandma’s cookies because that’s what most people would choose. By connecting the cookies to family by calling them “grandma’s”, restaurants invoke memories of your grandma’s homemade chocolate chip cookies. The resulting nostalgia motivates you to try out those cookies. It’s effective too. Especially in those Ma and Pa diners. Large fast food chains generally can’t get away with stuff like this (although they still try sometimes).

      5. They use ethnic terms to make dishes seem more authentic

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        Enter any Italian restaurant ever and you’ll see dozens of examples of this. Let’s do another word exercise, shall we? Which sounds more authentic? “Shrimp spaghetti” or “Shrimp scampi tagliatelle”? It’s okay if you picked that second one, I would have too. The truth is tagliatelle is actually just the Italian word for “noodles”. Nothing fancy there, just a straight translation via Google Translate. However, by using ethnic language on dishes, it makes the food seem more authentic. For those of us bored with American food, some shrimp scampi tagliatelle sounds amazing even if, word for word, it means “noodles with shrimp doused in butter”.

        6. They use brand names to create product associations

        It sounds complicated but it really isn’t. TGI Fridays uses Jack Daniels BBQ sauce. Fans of whiskey know the Jack Daniels name and are thus more likely to enjoy sauce made from one of their favorite beverages. Buying brand name stuff is “cool” and “hip” and many claim it does taste better than non brand name. It isn’t rocket science. People will simply buy stuff more often if they’ve heard of it before.

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        7. They use anchor items

        menu tricks

          An anchor item is an item that is ridiculously expensive that is set on the menu next to other expensive items to make them seem like a better value. Let’s do a thought exercise. Which is the better deal? A $10 steak or a $20 steak? Okay, so what about a $20 steak and a $30 steak? All of a sudden, the more expensive option in the first scenario becomes the better deal in the second scenario. You put that same $20 and $30 steak next to a $50 steak and all of a sudden $20 doesn’t seem like so much, does it? Restaurants use this tactic to trick you into thinking more expensive items are good deals because they’re placed near an even more expensive item.

          8. They highlight certain items to make them seem special

          Mid-range and low end restaurants do this constantly. You’ll look in the menu and see pictures of particularly tantalizing looking items. Chinese menus will have “chef specials” that are listed separate from all of the other dishes (and they tend to be the most expensive). This is all a ploy to get you to think with your eyes and not your wallet. Upscale restaurants tend not to do things like this because they believe it to be tacky.

          9. They increase the price of the second least expensive wine

          This one is a little hard to describe and requires an explanation. According to Urban Spoon, restaurants will intentionally mark up the second least expensive wine. As Urban Spoon explains, many people are cheap (in this economy, there’s no reason to be ashamed of that) but they don’t want to appear cheap. Thus, they order the second least expensive wine. Restaurants became wise to this and made the second least expensive wine more expensive. It’s still the second least expensive but it’s the worst deal out of any wine on the menu.

          10. They design their menus in a unique way to prevent you from comparing prices

          Not all restaurants do this (most Chinese take out restaurants don’t) but there are still plenty that do. Many restaurants will put their prices down the right side so you can compare prices and get the ones you want. Other restaurants (particularly expensive ones) will put their prices all over the place and use fonts which are difficult to read. This is so you have a harder time comparing prices. They’ll generally align the columns to the center so you have to read through the item descriptions to get to the price which means you’re distracted and more likely to choose an expensive item.

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          11. They use the “right next door” tactic

          We talked earlier about the anchor item that is the most expensive item on the menu. It turns out that part of the menu is pretty important because they employ a second trick there as well. They’ll put the items with the highest profit margins next to the anchor item. That way, when you meander away from the anchor item (because it costs too much), you’ll land on items that look like better deals but will also make the restaurant the most money.

          12. They’ll use useless language to make bland items sound more exotic

          This is one of my favorite ones because it’s simply ridiculous. You know how people saying things like “PIN number” when “PIN” means “personal identification number”? Restaurants will do this, too. They’ll use language like “beet roots”. Beets are roots so the roots part is totally unnecessary. Let’s face it, though, beet roots sound better than just beets.

          13. Restaurants know where you look at the menu and organize it accordingly

          According to studies, people look at the top right of the menu first and the bottom left of the menu last. Thus, many restaurants will put the most expensive stuff (usually the anchor item) in the top right while they put the cheap stuff at the bottom and the left. Generally the cheaper stuff is also in smaller text. That way it’s at the worst part of the menu and it’s harder to read than everything else which draws your attention to the more expensive items.

          14. They use boxes

          This doesn’t seem like a big deal but it can be. Restaurants will often highlight things like high-profit items or more expensive items in decorative boxes to draw your eyes to them. It’s a very simple premise but a very effective one. When you’re just browsing around the menu, chances are that you’ll look at the part with all the decoration and pretty colors than just the plain text parts.

          15. They use vague language to keep their portion sizes a secret

          It’s also commonly referred to as bracketing and you’ve seen this before. When you go into a place and see that you can order a regular salad or a half salad. Or a half sandwich or a full sandwich. You don’t actually know how big those are but you have a general idea. The half sizes are generally marked up to make the full sizes seem like a better deal. Thus, people on a diet spend more while people who order the full think they’re getting a better deal. All without revealing the actual serving size.

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          16. They use the “first in show” tactic

          Our last menu trick is the first in show tactic. Many restaurants organize their menus. You’ll find beef, chicken, appetizer, a la carte, etc sections. Sources have revealed that people are most likely to pick the first choice in those categories. Thus, restaurants will put their most profitable items first. That way, if you’re one of the many that pick the first choice, the restaurant makes the most money of you.

          The important thing to note here is that restaurants have high turnover numbers. People who go out to eat at the nice places tend not to do so very often so restaurants need to figure out a way to make enough money to keep the doors open. So this isn’t something they devised in order to be evil or terrible companies. Let’s face the facts here, grandma’s home made cookies and tender, all-white-meat chicken basted in tangy, spicy sauce sounds delicious, doesn’t it? Being cognizant of the tricks doesn’t mean you have to hate them. You just know they’re there!

          Featured photo credit: McCullagh.org via mccullagh.org

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          Joseph Hindy

          A writer, editor, and YouTuber who likes to share about technology and lifestyle tips.

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          Last Updated on July 4, 2019

          25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

          25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education

          Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless.

          Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent free online education awaits on the following 25 sites.

          1. Coursera

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            Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

            Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education, and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

            Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups.

            2. Khan Academy

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              Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

              Among the more well known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly useable, which may make it easier to keep learning goals.

              3. Open Culture Online Courses

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                If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos and podcasts from universities around the world. The site features a lot of material found only on universities private sites, all in easy to browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses, without having to visit and search each university’s own site.

                Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales and many state universities around the United States. A very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

                4. Udemy 

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                  Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

                  Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top quality content. This is another site however, that mixes free and paid content.

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                  5. Academic Earth

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                    Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources, and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

                    Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

                    6. edX

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                      Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics.

                      7. Alison

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                        Unlike the previous sites on this lists, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

                        It’s a great option if users need certification for their learning as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

                        8. iTunesU Free Courses

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                          A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod, or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.

                          Desktop users can access  iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

                          Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos, and paid content.

                          ITunesU does include courses on a pretty wide scope of topics, but does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

                          9. Stanford Online

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                            Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

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                            Stanford Online is a great site for high quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school.

                            10. Harvard Extension

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                              Like Stanford Online, Harvard Extension features free online education courses from Harvard only. This is another excellent source for top notch course material, though the course variety is less rich than multi-school sites.

                              Additionally, Harvard Extension allows you to search for courses by professional certificate. This makes it much easier if your online education goal includes certification.

                              11. Open Yale Courses

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                                Open Yale Courses echoes Harvard Extension and Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses, but learn better by watching than by reading.

                                12. UC Berkeley Class Central

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                                  Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

                                  13. MIT OpenCourseWare

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                                    Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, plus includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

                                    14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

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                                      Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list, however, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics. But for the topics that are covered impressive, in-depth material is available.

                                      15. Codecademy

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                                        Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.

                                        The courses at Codecademy are well written and easy to follow and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, plus organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

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                                        16. Code

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                                          Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

                                          In addition to kid friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics and Javascript.

                                          Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

                                          17. University of London Podcasts

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                                            The podcast page on the University of London website is another great source for free education. While the courses are limited to podcasts, the site features podcasts from it’s own campus, as well as eleven universities in and around London. This gives learners a wide base of topics and lectures, but still ensures in-depth material.

                                            18. University of Oxford Podcasts

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                                              Similar to the University of London, the University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

                                              The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. Another good site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

                                              19. BBC Podcasts

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                                                For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly, and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

                                                Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

                                                20. TED-Ed

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                                                  Another great destination for more general learning is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all encompassing, motivational web series, comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

                                                  Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.

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                                                  21. LessonPaths

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                                                    LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

                                                    22. Memrise

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                                                      Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

                                                      Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

                                                      23. National Geographic Kids

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                                                        The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keeps kids interested on this site.

                                                        National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

                                                        24. Fun Brain

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                                                          Fun Brain is another good option for kids who want to learn online, but focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

                                                          Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

                                                          25. Whyville

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                                                            Similar to the sites for kids free online education is Whyville a destination for preteen online learning. The site includes a variety of social features, with a focus on learning materials geared for young teens.

                                                            Whyville also mixes in educational games, to make the site a well rounded option for kids too old for simple games, but too young for heavy reading based material.

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                                                            Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

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