MikeS forwarded me a really interesting article, Tricks of the Restaurant Trade: 7 Ways Menus Make You Spend. I knew that restaurants wanted their food to entice you to spend, but I never actually thought about the menu layout being a part of that technique before.
Here is my take on the 7 different marketing techniques mentioned:
1. First in show.
Many restaurants group their offerings under the obvious headings: pasta, beef, seafood, entrees, appetizers and so on. Testing has shown that if you decide on chicken, you are more likely to order the first item on the chicken list. That’s where a savvy restaurant will place its most profitable chicken dish.
2. Menu Siberia.
Unprofitable dishes, like a seafood combo plate that require expensive ingredients, and lots of work, are usually banished to a corner that’s less noticeable or in a multi-page menu stashed on page five.
That makes sense to me. Although, if there is a main course or side dish that you rather not mess with, why put it in the menu at all? My best guess is that they don’t want to lose the business of those few people willing to order the banished items.
3. Visual aids.
If you draw a line around it, people will order. That’s why many menus box off something they want to promote.
I will admit that the little dashed box around a restaurants steak selection does draw my eye. BUT, I will still look at everything else so I’ll know I am ordering my best option at the time. Sometimes the steak wins, but usually it’s a soup and salad combo or grilled meat of some sort…
4. Package deals
. So you stop by McDonald’s for a mid-afternoon burger. When you get to the counter, however, what’s really in your face are photos of Extra Value Meals.
My husband used to fall “victim” to this all of the time. Now that we are on Weight Watchers, we rarely ever want the fries and the drink, so we are saving a little more when we do decide to splurge on fast food. 🙂
5. Dollar-sign avoidance.
Focus groups who’ve been asked to opine on menus display an acute discomfort with dollar signs and decimals. Keeping money as abstract as possible makes spending less threatening.
I have seen this at all of our favorite once-a-year expensive restaurants. I’m sorry but not placing a dollar sign next to the “15” or “40” doesn’t fool me. I know I am paying $15 for a really great salad and $40 for a Brazilian meat buffet. Call me crazy, but it actually annoys me since it seems incomplete without the dollar sign – still expensive, yet incomplete. Maybe that’s just the personal finance geek in me though…
6. The small plate-large plate conundrum.
A restaurant may offer two chicken Caesar salads, one for $9 and one for $12. You may think that you’re getting a break ordering the small one, but, says Ez, that’s really the size they want to sell. And if a diner decides, hmmm, I may as well get the larger one because I’ll never get rich saving three bucks, the restaurant will throw on some extra lettuce, making the price differential almost pure profit.
This one confuses me a little. If the restaurant will make almost pure profit from selling the larger plate, than why is the small plate the one they really want to sell?
7. Ingredient embroidery
. Foodie-centric restaurants practically list the recipe for each dish making each ingredient sound ultra-special.
Again, I’ve noticed this all over and it annoys me. First of all, I don’t like them trying to describe a basic ingredient like it is made of gold. Secondly, they sometimes start calling an ingredient by a special name that I don’t know so I want to skip it altogether. Sometimes I skip the dining out and just use a restaurant delivery service near me. Maybe I am just an odd duck. Then again when comparing Doordash vs Ubereats it seems to me its way better to have food delivered these days.
Which one of these restaurant menu tricks may work on you? Which ones don’t?