13 Mind Tricks Fancy Restaurants Use To Get You To Order What They Want

Restaurant Menu Design

These aren’t the starters you’re looking for…

The restaurant trade is increasingly tough right now in London, with closures up by 20% last year amid increasing food costs, heavy competition, the impact of Brexit on staffing and the impact of food delivery services.

So when it comes to extracting money from customers, restaurants need their menus to work harder than ever. Fortunately, they have a few tricks up their sleeve to get you to order exactly what they want – how many of these have you noticed?

Restaurant menu design template
A downloadable menu template.

First, they place the most profitable dishes in the middle, or the top-left and top-right corners. That’s where people naturally tend to look first.

They might also put an overly expensive dish at the top. This is called an ‘anchor’, and it makes the other dishes feel like better value for money.

Customers also tend to order the final item in any list more often, so this is another good spot for a high-margin dish.

And increasingly, quality menus stick to around seven items in each section – more than that and customers get stressed out by the choice, making them more likely to order something ‘safe and cheap.’

Prices usually lose their currency signs and eschew supermarket pricing tricks: £7.99 becomes £8.00, which becomes 8.00, before settling on a simple ‘8.’ This friendly number feels less like spending ‘real money’, and also makes the restaurant seem more confident in the quality of the dish. Then, by simply placing the number at the end of each item’s description – rather than in their own column – it’s harder for customers to compare prices and pick out the cheapest.

A restaurant’s preferred dishes are usually set apart in boxes and earn a juicier description, which is why so many dishes are ‘artisinal’ or ‘hand-dived’ or ‘otter-smoked’ or ‘lard-kissed’ or ‘ennui-dusted’ and so on. Not only do the adjectives make the dish sound more mouthwatering, diners subconsciously associate ‘a big chunk of text’ with ‘a big portion of food.’

Watch out for dishes that purport to have a homely origin (like ‘Nana’s Chocoloate Surprise’ or ‘Ole Pete’s Old Fashioned’) – Nana and Pete may never have really existed.

Menu designers Aaron Allen have illustrated all of their favourite tricks below so you can see them in action – click to see full size – see how many you can spot the next time you’re eating somewhere new.

Psychology of Menu Design

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