How Restaurants Manipulate Menus To Make You Spend More Money

One patron who dined at a top restaurant once had the audacity to ask why he was charged top dollar for a bottle of water. The answer was astounding as it was unexpected-the water was imported. Surprisingly, he had ordered willingly and without the slightest peak at the menu; after was its just water. It has now been revealed that use certain techniques to make a customer order whereas most customers believe they do so by choice, hunger, or because it is a favorite.

There is psychology between a menu design and what we order which is what menu design technicians exploit. Here’s how restaurants manipulate menus to make you spend more money.

1.  Limited choice

There is a psychological theory known as the paradox of choice. It states that the more options available to an individual, the more anxious the individual gets. Gregg Rapp, a restaurant menu engineer, says the lucky number is seven; seven options per food category, seven tops, etc. Beyond that and the customer will get confused and pick what he usually has all the time. However, a well-designed menu with just the right number of choices will make a customer try something new and most likely more expensive.

2.  The Golden Triangle

Experts analyzed the way our eyes moved through a menu and realized a consistent pattern they came to call the Golden Triangle. Their results found that people’s eyes first focus on the middle of a menu then the top right corner and finally, the top left corner. It is in these places that menu engineers place foods with the highest profit margin. Experts also realized that creating space around items like putting them in boxes or other separations pulls the eye. This is known as putting an item in a negative space.

3.   Hidden prices

Crafty hoteliers know that everyone antagonizes over cost when eating out. They’d rather put the price in a very inconspicuous manner to make the dinners focus on the food more than the cost. Rapp recommends putting the price at the end of an item description without the $ sign or other sign and in exactly the same font as the description. This kind of softens the price and is said to encourage customers to spend up to 30 times more than they anticipated or budgeted for.

4.  Use of nostalgia

“Grandma’s apple pie”, “wholesome”, “and traditional” are terms used to describe dishes in almost any restaurant. Alluding to the past has been known to trigger happy memories with family, tradition, culture, or one’s nationalism. “They don’t make them like they used to” is also another popular nostalgic phrase. Nostalgia acts like a blast from the past supposed to load a dish with irresistible emotional resonance.  If a customer has that one meal that brings back good memories, the restaurant is sure to hook such a fellow because they will always settle for that “grandma’s chicken soup.”

5.  Decoy dishes

Anyone eating or dining out at a restaurant expects to get value for money. Though the value is relative, there are meals considered expensive and others worth the buck. Icing to the class of the restaurant, more expensive items are placed at the top of the menu. This makes the rest of the dishes appear worthy and that’s where pockets start to bleed cash.


These are just a few tips as there are much more, for example, usage of color and fancy language in the menu of a restaurant. Some menu items may actually be genuine but as long there is business competition to deal with, more and more customer will still fall for these obvious but very well camouflaged tricks.