Restaurant menu cheat sheet, by Mary Hunt

A restaurant menu is no big deal, right? It’s just a list of the food items that a restaurant offers to its customers. Of course it is. And much more.

Before the menus get to the printer, restaurateurs hire engineers and menu consultants to bury super sneaky psychological tricks in pretty pictures and tantalizing descriptions for one reason: to make you spend more money.

Want to beat restaurants at their own game? Here is your cheat sheet listing the most devious tips.

Dollar signs. Sophisticated research is telling restaurants to stop including dollar signs on their menus because a dollar sign – or even the word “dollar” spelled out instead – triggers negative feelings associated with payment. The sign and word remind customers that they are spending money. (Well imagine that!)

Numbers 9 and 5. Menu designers work according to a strict list of rules, one of which concerns the number 9. Consumers have come to believe that prices that end in 9, like $ 7.99, offer value but not necessarily quality. And get this, the prices that end in .95 instead of .99 are more efficient, which subconsciously means customers are more likely to choose them because the way the price seems to be friendlier.

Flowery language. Further research has revealed to restaurateurs that beautifully written descriptions of food choices appeal to unsuspecting customers. And those descriptive menu labels, in an impressive study, increased sales by 27%, compared to food products without a fabulously written description.

Here’s an example: Instead of the menu just listing “Crab Cakes” by naming them “Handmade Maryland Crab Cakes, with Sweet Jumbo Crab Meat, a touch of mayonnaise, our secret seasoning blend. and golden cracker crumbs for a rich, tender taste, “a customer can’t help but have a sensory experience just by reading the description. This kind of flowery language gives customers a satisfaction that drives them to order, without overthinking what it’s going to cost.

Bring the fonts. When menu items are bold, printed in a different color, or enhanced with images, fonts, photos or – the big one – isolated in a separate box, they look much more special than the other items. cheeky people who are part of a boring list on the other side of the menu. If the “All-Star Perfect All-Beef Burge” has its own box and print color, it must be worth the price of $ 12.95. Ha! This is why they work so hard to convince you.

Food lures. No kidding, that’s what the experts call them – decoys to manipulate you into making their claim. Here’s how it works: You sit down, open the menu, and lock your eyes with the $ 11.95 melted pie, with no description. Just a fondue galette for $ 12. You’re making fun. Ha! Not me. Then your eyes turn to the boxed item with a photo of the world’s most perfect burger (titled accordingly) that makes you salivate. And it’s $ 16.95 with fries and Jack Daniel’s dip.

Certainly not! You know what they’re doing here. You make your decision. It will be the melt-in-the-mouth pancake, no fries, no sauce. And are you not smart? Well, not so fast, buckaroo. You’ve just played their game and they’re laughing all the way to the bank! This burger that no one ever orders is a decoy. Priced at $ 17, it’s so ridiculous that customers laugh silently and have no problem with a $ 12 galette fondant.

Charming atmosphere. The colors of the walls, the choice of finishes, the style of the furniture, the music, overall impeccable taste, all the things that set the mood are there for one reason: to make us want to spend more. Playing classical music prompts us to accept higher prices. And they know that playing less sophisticated music makes people spend less.

When you notice these tips, focus on them momentarily. So go rogue by making up your own mind without feeling manipulated into buying a fondant patty or expensive crab cakes, uh … I mean delicious Maryland crab cakes.

Would you like more information? Log on to, where this column is archived with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions, comments, and advice at, “Ask Mary a Question,” or c / o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of Debt-Proof Living, a personal finance member website and author of Debt-Proof Living, Revell 2014. To learn more about Mary, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators .com.

Photo credit: to Pixabay

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