Tricks of the trade – 10 Hacks restaurants use to make us spend more

Dining out can be a delicious treat; it’s great to let someone else do the cooking and serving while you enjoy a fun time with your friends and family. Being in the service domain restaurant’s understand customer and ordering behavior exceptionally well. This understanding is put to use to maximise revenue and profit for the business.

The following are the top 10 “hacks” restaurants use to get customers to have a good time – resulting in more moolah for themselves at the bank.

Hack 1: The higher margin are placed in highlighted box

Menu design is a precise science and not about art as would be the common misunderstanding. Studying human behavior; designers know that placing slightly pricier menu items in a highlighted box would immediately draw the reader’s eye and would imply that the dish is special. The user would be more likely to order these high margin items.

Be smarter by: Reading through the entire menu once to understand the benchmark pricing; only then should you start reading the special. In the context, only order the special if it really does feel special.

Hack 2: They don’t use the currency sign on the menu

Restaurants understand that prefixing the price of dishes with a ₹ sign makes the customer think of money. They don’t want their customers to think about money – at least until they present the check.

Be smarter by: Appreciating that there is nothing like a free lunch. Someone (even if not you) would be paying for the meal so order carefully.

Hack 3: They use family titles in dish names or menu descriptions

What are you more likely to draw your attention – Grandma’s Nargisi kofte or Nargisi Kofte? Customers are drawn to the former as it evokes nostalgia and trust. Data shows that descriptive menus result in increased sales by 27%.

Be smarter by: Focus on the tangible qualities of the dish – ingredients, preparation, sides on offer and cooking technique.

Hack 4: They hide the best value items in the bottom left area of the menu

Years of study of customer behavior resulted in menu designers to understand that the customers tend to ignore the items on the bottom left area of the menu. You are thus most likely to find the lesser profitable items to be placed on this side.

Be smarter by: Browsing through the menu and pay attention to the items on the bottom left before placing your order

Hack 5: They set you up by placing an unreasonably expensive dish on the menu

Experts refer to this item as an anchor item; this item is usually unreasonably expensive; this is done to make all other dishes appear more affordable. A variation of this tactic is where restaurants trick customers into thinking that an expensive item is a good deal because it is placed near an even more expensive item.

Be smarter by: Avoid ordering items that are listed around the “anchor item”.

Hack 6: Wine list switcheroo

In a group would you be the one to order the cheapest of anything? Consider wines which in any case are insanely marked up at most restaurants. Human behavior suggests that a customer, due to social pressures, would avoid ordering the cheapest wine on the menu. This behavior is well understood by restaurants and as a result they add the highest margin to the second cheapest wine on the menu.

Be smarter by: Opt for the house wine; these offer the best deal since the restaurant’s buying them in bulk. While you are at it; also avoid buying wine by the glass as this has the highest margin for the restaurant.

Hack 7: The waiter tells you the specials

You are on a first date with the girl/guy of your dreams or are out to impress a client to land that elusive deal. You arrive at the restaurant and once the niceties are done with a server comes to the table to describe the specials for the day.

A sample –

Tonight’s specials are –

“Pan-seared duck breast with creamy truffled polenta, salsify, pears and grapes in a green peppercorn sauce. “

“Spicy sauteed wild prawns with garlic and herbs; Cool cucumber salad with dill, yogurt and couscous”

“Butter-poached Maine lobster with beet puree, Meyer lemon, braised baby savoy cabbage, black caraway, fines herbs”

It is possible that just reading this would make you hungry; imagine a server providing this description in a well rehearsed pitch. Restaurant’s know that there is a high probability that you would order from these without actually asking the price for the dish. The price just like the dish is likely to be special.

Be smarter by: There is no way around this; ask the price before ordering or stay clear.

Hack 8: Fixed cost meals start with a filling

Buffets begin with food that fills you up quickly. Think salads, breads, fried food. This is to ensure that you are already full by the time you get to the high cost items.

Be smarter by: Find the value items and get to them first.

Hack 9: Pied piper syndrome

Soft, soothing and classical music gives people the feeling of affluence, which makes people linger around longer and order much more than required. Coupled with this is the trick to clear the table quickly once you have eaten. This makes customers feel that they ate less and order more food.

Be smarter by: If a restaurant is playing soft music make your menu decisions from the display menus outside prior to stepping in.

Hack 10: Seating for a view

You enter a restaurant and the server immediately offers a table by the window offering a view. You are happy at the coincidence and thank the server for the great service. Interesting, but did you realize that it is you who is the view! Restaurant’s offer the seats with a “view” so that people walking outside feel that the restaurant is busy and popular.

Be smarter by: Bear the hack in mind while you place the order.

Eating out is fun; bear in mind the above hacks and the experience would be much better.


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