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The Restaurant Persuasion Equation

Sara Glaz

We’ve all heard about the gimmicks supermarkets use to get us to buy more — candy at the checkout, nosh at kid level, and the milk in the far-back corner of the store. But did you know restaurants are equally guilty of this money manipulation game? Tricks to watch out for.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

In the United States, restaurants are obviously doing something right. According to the National Restaurant Association, households on average spend $2,500 annually dining out — probably because restaurants have perfected the art of influencing their customers.Menus are specifically designed to steer diners toward certain foods and away from others. The ambience will either make you stay a bit longer than you planned, or push you to leave as soon as the last fry is off the plate. Plus, waiters have perfected the art of sweet talk — and not just about dessert. You may have thought that restaurants are “all about the food;” turns out they’re also “all about the bottom line.” Menu ManipulationThe menu is the most vital tool a restaurant has to entice diners to buy what it wants them to buy. WilliamPoundstone, author of Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It), exposes the brilliant ways menu design influences customer decisions.Drawing upon research, Poundstone notes that the first place our eyes settle is the upper right corner. That’s where we’ll find the “anchor dish” — the most expensive item on the menu. Because it’s the most expensive, the restaurant knows it won’t be the popular choice. So why include a super-pricey item that will probably be avoided? Look next door. You’ll find a comparable item, with a price that’s easier to digest. In other words, the anchor is there to make its neighbor look like a bargain.

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