Advertising
Advertising

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.

      Advertising

      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

      menu tricks

        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.

        Advertising

        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.

          Advertising

          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.

          Advertising

          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

          More by this author

          Joseph Hindy

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

          10 Benefits of Sleeping Naked You Probably Didn’t Know 12 Inspirational Speeches That Teach You the Most Valuable Life Lessons 15 Most Effective Cool Down Exercises For Every Workout 10 Things Guys Love That You Didn’t Expect 20 Google Search Tips to Use Google More Efficiently

          Trending in Money

          1 How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them 2 25 Killer Sites For Free Online Education 3 How to Develop a Millionaire Mindset in 6 Simple Steps 4 5 Books You Must Read if You Want to Be a Millionaire in Your 20’s 5 20 Better Money Habits to Help You Increase Your Savings

          Read Next

          Advertising
          Advertising
          Advertising

          Last Updated on August 20, 2019

          How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

          How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

          Finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. And that’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

          In this article, we will explore ways on how to set financial goals and then actually meet them with ease.

          5 Steps to Set Financial Goals

          Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task but if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps:

          1. Be Clear About the Objectives

          Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream. And this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

          It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it is for. It could be anything like kid’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car etc.

          Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to it.

          2. Keep Them Realistic

          It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going out of the line will definitely hurt your chances of achieving them.

          It’s important that you keep your goals realistic in nature for it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

          3. Account for Inflation

          Ronald Reagan once said – “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman”. And this quote sums up the best what inflation could do your financial goals.

          Therefore account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far away in the future.

          For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years hence, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is mere 3%. So always account for inflation.

          4. Short Term vs Long Term

          Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It is important to bifurcate goals in short term and long term.

          As a rule of thumb, any financial goal, which is due in next 3 years should be termed as short term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short term vs long term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

          More on this later when we talk about how to achieve financial goals.

          Advertising

          5. To Each to His Own

          The journey of setting financial goals is an individualistic affair i.e. your goals are your own goals and are determined by your want to achieve them. A lot of times we get on the bandwagon of goal setting only to realize later on that it was not meant for us.

          It is important that your goals are actually your goals and not inspired by someone else. Take a hard look at this step at all the goals you’ve set for after this step, you will be on the way to achieve them.

          By now, you would be ready with your financial goals, now it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

          11 Ways to Achieve Your Financial Goals

          Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a 2 step process –

          • Ensuring healthy savings
          • Making smart investments

          You will need to save enough; and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals. So let’s get down to ensuring healthy savings.

          Ensuring Healthy Savings

          Self realization is the best form of realisation and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

          This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

          1. Track Expenses

          The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your monthly expenses. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you would be surprised to see how small expenses add up to a sizeable amount.

          Also categorize those expenses into different bucket so that you know which bucket is eating the most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pump up your savings rate.

          2. Pay Yourself First

          Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classical mistake which almost everyone of us do. We pay ourselves last!

          Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and then manage all the expenses from the rest.

          The best way to actually implement is to put the savings on automatic mode i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (for example – mutual funds, retirement corpus etc) every month.

          Taking the automatic route will make us lose control of our money and hence will compel us to manage in what’s left with us thereby increasing the savings rate.

          3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick with It

          Budgeting is the best to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be made.

          Advertising

          Nowadays, several money management apps and wallets can help you do this automatically. It’s easy and who knows, you may just end up doing what people fail to do.

          At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

          Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

          You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

          4. Rise Again Even If You Fall

          Let’s be realistic. It’s not like the world will come to an end if you made one mistake. This isn’t called leniency but discipline.

          If you fail to meet your budget for a month, don’t give up the entire effort just like that. Instead, start again.

          Remember that flexible plans are the most realistic plans. So go forward and try to follow your financial goals as planned but if for some reason, the plan gets out of hand for you, do not give up on it just yet. This has a lot to do with your psychology rather than any material commitment.

          All you have to do is to stay on the road and vow to stay on it, no matter how much you fall down.

          5. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

          In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

          Make Savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counter intuitive to many but there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

          Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Usually weekends are expensive. Make it a habit and you would in turn be saving a great deal.

          If you are travelling buff, try to travel during off season. Your outlay will be much less.

          If you go out for shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

          So the key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

          Advertising

          6. Talk About It

          Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission. And it would be rather easy to lose the grip over your discipline.

          Therefore in order to stay the course, it is advisable that you keep yourself surrounded with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

          7. Maintain a Journal

          For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

          So if you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

          Use this journal to write down all essential points such as your short term, mid term and long term goals, your current sources of income, your regular expenses which you are aware of and any committed expenses which are of recurring nature.

          When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energised to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot more easier for you to follow you and track your progress.

          At this point, you should be ready with your financial goals and would be doing brilliantly with savings; now it’s time to talk about the big daddy – Investments.

          Making Smart Investments

          Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However savings when invested wisely can do wonders and we are at that stage where we will talk about making smart investments.

          8. Consult a Financial Advisor

          Investments doesn’t come naturally to most of us therefore rather than dabbling with it ourselves, it is wise to consult a financial advisor.

          Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

          9. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

          Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about them.

          Just like “no one is born a criminal”, no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.

          Do you remember we talked about bifurcating financial goals in short term and long term?

          It is here where that classification will help.

          Advertising

          So as a general rule, for all your short term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less as compared to equity instruments.

          10. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

          Einstein once remarked about compounding,

          Compound Interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.

          So make friends with this wonder kid. And sooner you become friends with it, quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

          Start investing early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

          11. Measure, Measure, Measure

          All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments; taking stock of how our investments are doing.

          If there is one single step where everything (so far) can go wrong, it is at this step – Measuring the Progress.

          If we don’t measure the progress timely, then we would be shooting in the dark. We wouldn’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not; whether financial advisor is doing a decent job; whether we are moving closer to our target or not.

          Do measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

          The Bottom Line

          This completes the list of tips for you to set financial goals and actually achieve them with not so great difficulty.

          As you can see, all it requires is discipline. But guess that’s the most difficult part!

          More About Personal Finance Management

          Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

          Read Next