Restaurants tease diners into ordering specific foods using tricks

How restaurants ‘engineer’ menus to entice diners into ordering more expensive dishes using simple lay-out techniques

  • A carefully considered layout will make diners choose specific dishes
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What you order in a restaurant is down to what you fancy, right? Apparently not; for menus are cleverly ‘engineered’ to influence what we choose, according to one food-savvy broadcaster.  

In a video posted to Instagram, Ruth Alexander, presenter of The Food Chain, explained how eateries use language, psychology and behavioural economics to optimise menus for profit.

‘Everything about a menu is designed to make you spend more,’ she told the social media platform.

The broadcaster referenced ‘menu engineering’, a method that utilises sales data and food costs to set prices and determine which dishes to highlight.

There’s now a whole industry around menu engineering; a BBC World Service report highlights some of the tricks of the trade that restauranteurs use to tempt us into making food choices we might not have considered – with boxes, specials and placing higher priced items in the top right – where the eye is drawn – among the techniques used

The presenter proceeded to unveil five surprising techniques these engineers use maximise profits – including incorporating boxes, ‘specials’ and placing expensive dishes on the top right.

If you thought you selected a dish from a restaurant menu because you were hungry and fancied one of your favourite meals, think again – there’s more behind it than that.

A post shared by BBC World Service (@bbcworldservice)

Establishment owners use certain techniques to influence what you order, usually steering you towards the choices with the highest profit margins, according to BBC World Service.

Layouts and descriptions are all cleverly manipulated to make your taste buds tingle and get you parting with your hard-earned cash.

The psychology between menu design and what we order is backed up by science and research that looks into areas of influence, such as how our emotions are affected by certain buzz words.

Layouts and descriptions are all cleverly manipulated to make your taste buds tingle and get you parting with your hard-earned cash.

5 techniques to optimise menus for profit

1. Incorporating boxes

‘If you put a dish in a box, it bumps up sales by around 30 per cent,’ the expert said.

2. Considered layout

‘People tend to order the first or last thing they see.

‘Many people’s eyes go initially to the top right of a menu – so that’s where restaurants put their star dishes that are most popular and profitable,’ she explained.

3. Detailed descriptions

According to BBC World Service: ‘The longer the description, the more expensive the dish – we’re talking an extra 18 cense for every letter over the average.’

4. Price consideration

 ‘Whole dollar pricing tends to suggest a place is exclusive or trendy whereas using cents suggests value.’

5. Placing expensive dishes at the top

‘Putting an expensive dish at the top of the list makes those that follow look more reasonably-priced,’ viewers heard.

The clip ended with Ms Alexander saying: ‘Next time you’re in a restaurant, see how many of these you can spot in the menu.’

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