5 menu tricks restaurants use to get you to spend more money

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - Whether you're just going through a drive-thru or sitting down for a nice dinner, restaurant owners know how to get you to order certain items.

If you recognize these menu tricks, you may be able to save some money on your next meal. 

Pictures sell food:

One menu engineer says a nice-looking picture of a food item increases sales of that item by 30%. 

Removing the dollar signs makes you more likely to buy:

Researchers at Cornell University found when you take the dollar sign off prices, customers are more likely to spend more. For example, "$12.00" becomes just 12 with no dollar sign, decimal or zeroes. The dollar sign is a "pain point" that consumers don't want to see.  

Listing the most expensive item at the top of the menu:

When consumers see the lower-priced items below the pricey menu item, they don't seem so bad in comparison.

Look in the upper right corner of a menu:

Most people's eyes are naturally drawn in this direction, so this space is where restaurants will feature items they really want you to buy. 

More detailed descriptions of menu items draw customers in:

Another Cornell study found that longer, more detailed descriptions of food make diners think they are getting more for their money. Customers, for example, would rather buy "satin chocolate pudding" than plain old "chocolate pudding."

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