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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

      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.

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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 10, 2020

          The Definitive Guide to Get out of Debt Fast (and Forever)

          The Definitive Guide to Get out of Debt Fast (and Forever)

          Debt can feel crushing, like a weight that is always weighing you down. Looking at those numbers, it can feel as if you’ll never get out from under it. However, if you really want to learn how to get out of debt, it is possible with a great deal of focus and self-control.

          Getting out of debt isn’t impossible. Like any big goal, all that it takes is an action plan to identify where you are and creating a plan to zero out your debt.

          Identifying All of Your Debts

          The first part of paying off your debt is getting a complete picture of what you owe. When you have everything written out in front of you, it makes it much easier to create an action plan. Depending on how much you owe, it might also help you realize it’s not as bad you might have originally thought.

          Here’s how you can get started identifying your debts:

          1. Own Your Debt

          Before you start identifying all of your debts, take a moment to process that you have debt but want to get out of it.

          Forgive yourself for any past mistakes, missed payments, or overspending. It might be painful to accept how much debt you have at first, but you must own it.

          2. Make a Debt Tracker

          It’s astonishing how few people ever created a tracker to understand their total debts. Most likely, it comes from not wanting to accept the guilt of having debt, but, if avoided, it can make it nearly impossible to get out of debt.

          Open up a new Google or Microsoft Excel sheet and list out all of your debts. Start with the name of the creditor, interest rates, total balance, loan term length (if any), and the minimum amount due each payment. This will include student loans, credit cards, and any other type of debt owed.

          3. Get Your Debt Number

          Once you’ve made your debt tracker and taken the other steps, identify your total payoff number. This is crucial, as you will have a starting point and a clear goal that you are trying to achieve.

          Prioritizing Your Debts

          All debt is not created equal. It’s imperative to understand that there are different types of debt.

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          1. Understand Bad and Good Debts

          Bad debts are usually paying for things you want instead of always need. While there might be some emergencies that max out your credit cards, often times it’s excessive spending[1].

          There are three main types of bad debt:

          • Credit Card Debt: The average American household owes over $16,000 in credit card debt!
          • Auto Loan Debt: According to CNBC , the average auto loan in the US is $30,032!
          • Consumer Loan Debt: Consumer loan debt isn’t as common as credit card and auto loan debt, but it’s still considered bad as interest rates are usually between 10-28%.

          Good debt is identified as investments in your future. Here are three common types of good debt:

          • Student Loan Debt
          • Mortgage Loan
          • Business Loans

          2. Decide Which Debt to Pay off First

          Once you know each type of debt and their interest rates, you can begin to pay off debt quickly.

          Focus on paying off bad debt first, regardless of if it is a credit card or auto loan. Start by paying off the loan with the highest interest rate first.

          If you have several credit cards with different interest rates, you want to focus on the one with a higher APR. You will actually save more money by eliminating the card with the highest interest rate.

          3. Don’t Pay the Minimum Amount

          Paying the minimum amount digs you into a hole as interest rates will offset your payment. Even a small amount more than the minimum can help you pay off debt much faster.

          Removing Obstacles to Pay off Debt Quickly

          Creating a debt tracker and prioritizing a plan is simple, but avoiding temptation can be difficult.

          1. Set a Reminder to Track Your Debt

          “If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it.” -Peter Drucker

          It’s so important to track your debt to ensure that you get it paid off quickly. Similar to working out and measuring your results, you need to track your debt constantly. Start with a weekly reminder, where you sign on and log your updated number. Did you increase, decrease, or stay the same?

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          Regularly tracking your student loan balance can be incredibly motivating, as well. You will get a huge confidence boost each time you see your total debt amount decreases.

          Set weekly and monthly goals so you can have short term wins and keep the momentum going.

          2. Hide Your Credit Cards

          If your biggest debt is credit cards, you need to eliminate temptation and remove them from your wallet.

          Some people have gone to extreme measures by freezing their credit cards. Why? This would create an ice block around your card, which would require you to chip away at it slowly. This will give you time to think if it’s the best idea to buy that thing you’re about to buy.

          3. Automate Everything

          Willpower can be a huge downfall to paying off your debt. By automating your bills each month, you will ensure that willpower isn’t involved.

          4. Plan Ahead

          Getting out of debt will require some sacrifices, but with enough planning, you can make it work.

          For example, if you know that you have a friend’s birthday or family dinner coming up, plan ahead for the costs. Whether you need to cut back on spending the week before, pick up a side job, or meet them after dinner, do what is needed.

          5. Live Cheaply

          The only way to get out of debt is to make some sacrifices on your spending habits. Find ways to save money each month so you can apply that amount to your outstanding debts. Here are some ways to save money each month:

          • Live with roommates
          • Cook dinners and prepare lunches for work instead of eating out
          • Cut cable and choose Netflix or Amazon Prime
          • Take public transit or bike to work

          Finding the Lowest Interest Rates

          The higher your interest rates, the harder (and longer) it will take you to pay off any debt.

          If possible, you want to find ways to lower your interest rates to help get out of debt quickly. Here’s how you can get started:

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          1. Maintain a High Credit Score

          Your credit score will have a large impact on your ability to refinance your loans and receive a lower interest rate. If you have a low credit score, it’s unlikely you will be able to refinance your loans. Use these credit tips to increase and maintain an excellent score:

          • Never miss a payment
          • Don’t exceed 30% of your credit limit
          • Don’t sign up for more than one card at once
          • Limit hard inquires, like auto-loans and new credit cards
          • Monitor frequently with free credit-tracking software

          2. Find Balance Transfer Offers

          Start by opening a free account on credit.com. Credit.com offers you the chance to open a free account and see what type of balance transfer offers you can receive. Some of your existing credit cards might already have 0% or lower APR balance transfer offers available.

          Contact each of your credit card providers to ask about lowering your rate for a one-time balance transfer offer[2].

          If you do take advantage of this option, make sure that you use a balance transfer and not a cash advance. Cash advances have a ton of high interest fees (15-25%, depending on your credit card) and will only compound your debt problem.

          How to Get Rid of Debt Forever

          Setting up a plan, removing temptations, and getting the lowest interest rates is the first step to get out of debt.

          1. Keep Monitoring and Adjusting

          Once you have a plan, don’t get comfortable. Track your debt payoff plan and make the necessary adjustments when needed.

          Monitor your credit scores with a free site like CreditKarma. The higher your credit score climbs, the more likely you will be to secure a new, lower-interest loan.

          2. Earn More Money

          There are only so many ways to save money. Instead of clipping another coupon or making sacrifices for your morning coffee, find ways to earn more money!

          Think about it…it is much easier to find ways to earn an extra $1,000 per month than find $1,000 to cut from your budget.

          Here are some examples of ways to earn more money:

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          Talk to Your Boss

          Have a conversation with your boss about current salary and/or commission rates. If you’re not satisfied or want a change, don’t be afraid to look around at other positions. Some of them might even have a student loan debt reimbursement plan!

          Start a Side Hustle

          This could be coaching students on the weekends, driving for Uber, or taking paid online surveys. There are tons of ways to make money outside your 9-5. Now that you have a clear plan to pay off your debts, you’ll be more motivated than ever to figure out creative new ways to earn money.

          Build an Online Business

          There are so many websites and blogs that earn money from ads, affiliates, and other online products. Find your niche and get started.

          3. Celebrate Your Wins

          As you progress in your debt payoff journey, don’t forget to celebrate your wins. You need to always reward yourself for the hard work and discipline that is required to get out of debt.

          While you shouldn’t celebrate so big that it increases debt, make sure to factor in little rewards to keep you motivated.

          4. Set New Financial Goals

          Eventually, with a plan and these steps, you can rid yourself of your debt. Once you do, make sure to celebrate your monumental achievement, but don’t stop there.

          Now, you can focus on acquiring wealth and increasing your net worth. Set new financial goals so you have a new target to aim toward. Here’s how to set financial goals and actually meet them.

          These could be anything now that you are debt free! Think about where you want to travel, buying your first home, or saving for your future retirement. Just like before, make sure that your goals are specific, measurable, and achievable.

          Conclusion

          Congrats, you can now set a plan in motion to finally pay off your debt quickly (and hopefully forever)!

          Remember, if you want to get out of debt quickly, it’s not always easy. Just like any big goal, there will be sacrifices, challenges, and problems to overcome.

          More Tips on Getting out of Debt

          Featured photo credit: Pepi Stojanovski via unsplash.com

          Reference

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