How deliciously sneaky restaurant menus influence your order

By Martin Zibauer »Martin Zibauer

December 15th, 2009

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New York magazine’s website has a primer on how restaurant menu design influences what diners eat. Watch out for a menu with no dollar signs, a sure indication that the restaurant knows how to push you to profit-generating dishes: If you can see those pesky little dollar signs, they’re more likely to guide your meal decisions. Clustering profitable and pricey items near the most expensive menu option is another trick; the second-biggest splurge looks a bargain in comparison. The analysis is excerpted from William Poundstone’s new book, Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It). Bet you didn’t realize you’ve been eating puzzles, plowhorses, and stars:

“A star is a popular, high-profit item—in other words, an item for which customers are willing to pay a good deal more than it costs to make,” Poundstone explains. “A puzzle is high-profit but unpopular; a plowhorse is the opposite, popular yet unprofitable. Consultants try to turn puzzles into stars, nudge customers away from plowhorses, and convince everyone that the prices on the menu are more reasonable than they look.”

More sample menus here, but start with the link above. As we like to say around the office, “Smart and shady.”

HT: The Daily Dish

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Martin Zibauer