How Restaurants Get You to Spend More Money

by Susanna Hamilton, Contributing Editor on March 1, 2013

Save Money When Dining Out
The average check for dining out has increased just 1.7% per year over the past five years, according to current market research. Restaurant industry analysts indicate this is due in large part to the fact that diners seem to be more carefully watching how much they spend at restaurants by doing without some of the pricey extras.. such as appetizers, mixed drinks and desserts.

Since profits are down, restaurant owners are left trying to find creative ways to get their customers to part with a little more of their money.

Here are a few of the customary techniques.. ranging from the subtle to the more obvious. All of these methods are designed to encourage diners to spend more when they dine out.

The Upsell:

Servers will make every attempt to upsell you to increase your bill. When you are ready order, they may suggest an appetizer.. or if you order a steak, you might be asked if you would like a side of mushrooms with that.. and don’t forget about dessert. Price conscious diners might want to ask how much the proposed extras will add to their bill.

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The Value Selling Concept:

Beware a little reverse psychology on behalf of the restaurant. Some servers may recommend lower priced items on the menu.. with the intention of providing better value.. thereby encouraging you to visit again.

Ordering several lower priced items can often lead customers to spend more in total. The single, higher priced meal may actually have cost less.. as pointed out by one of the creators of the P.F. Chang’s restaurant concept, which advocates the value selling approach.

Elaborate Menu Descriptions:

Think $12.95 is too much to pay for a salad? What if it happens to be an organic oak leaf lettuce salad with Asian pears, Danish blue cheese and candied walnuts.. featuring a goji berry infused raspberry balsamic vinaigrette?

Carefully worded descriptions can soften the price in a customer’s head. This is especially true when descriptions utilize geographic labels such as “Louisiana bourbon chicken” or a “Bombay curry sauce”.

Sensory triggers are also very popular.. (sizzling, savory, smooth, creamy) as well as brand names (San Pelligrino sparkling fruit beverages). These seem to be most effective at creating a sense of value for customers.

No Dollar Signs on the Menu:

Another subtle trick restaurants use is to leave dollar signs off the menu. A study by researchers at Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality Research found that when dollar signs are left off the menu, diners spend 8.15% more than when the menu lists prices with dollar signs.

Another trick can be to leave the dots off the menu. The dots which serve to connect the items to the prices make it easier for diners to scan menu items looking for the cheapest price, then follow the dots over to the corresponding item to order it.

Item Placement on the Menu:

Savvy restaurant owners will often list items they want to sell most of in the top spot under each of the category listings. These may be the highest priced items.. or may be the items which have the highest profit margin. Placing bold lines or boxes around certain items also aids in drawing diners’ attention to these offerings.

Restaurant Daily Specials:

Daily specials are another of the ways restaurants get you to spend more. The specials often cost more than other menu items or have a higher markup. Diners might not realize this since prices of specials most times are not printed on the menu.

Servers might verbally offer a list of specials.. without quoting dollar amounts. It is then up to diners to ask for the price of each special.. or risk facing a costly surprise when the check arrives.

Choice of Background Music:

The music a restaurant plays can also affect the amount of money patrons spend. A study by Scottish researchers found that customers spent 23% more on food and drink when slow music was played than when the featured music was a bit more upbeat.

And in another study by British researchers, it was found that restaurant tabs were 10.4% higher when classical music was played than when pop music was the preferred choice.

Souvenir Items:

Many restaurants.. chain restaurants in particular.. make a lot of money selling souvenir items in addition to food sales. Restaurants don’t want to make customers feel like they’re being pushed to purchase a souvenir.. so a clever method has been devised to handle this situation as well.

When diners are asked whether they would prefer the small or large cocktail, if the server advises them they will get to keep the glass when ordering the large.. most times the patrons will choose the large size as they feel they are getting something for free.

Since the cost difference between the small drink or the large drink is very little to the restaurant.. the higher price you are paying is for the purchase of the “free” glass.


Article Courtesy of Credit Card Approval Center

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