How Restaurants Trick You Into Spending More
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January 4, 2010 by dbrendant,

As we know, advertising is everywhere. Branding and aggressive marketing penetrate many aspects of our daily lives and routines. In an industry as lucrative and pervasive as the food industry, restaurants and supermarkets are no exception. And while it may seem like you’re momentarily at peace once you’ve sat down for a nice meal with a friend, many restaurants use standard tricks of the trade to guide your decision-making – and your wallet. 

When it comes to shopping for groceries, something at eye level is more likely to catch our attention and potentially sell. And something that’s sold for 99 cents is supposedly more likely to sell than something going for an entire dollar. But as a recent article points out, there are some tricks that you, the consumer, may not know about.

Eye tracking studies have shown that diners will first look at the top right corner of a menu, so items placed there are generally given a lot more thought than menu options in other sections. An expensive or fancy menu item is often placed in the top right corner as it catches our attention but also makes the other items appear more affordable by comparison. Take wines, for example. Studies show that the second cheapest wine on the list has the highest profit margin. Most conscious consumers want a bargain when they can get it, but shoppers and diners also don’t like to appear cheap, so they will oftentimes go for the next bottle up. Restaurant owners may sometimes add an extra expensive item to the menu, making a typically high-priced option seem far more affordable and appealing.

Food items in grocery stores are often bundled and sold together, perhaps in a meal package, making it more difficult for consumers to work out if they are paying a fair price for each individual item.

Starbucks and other chains habitually label their serving sizes with unique and potentially deceiving or even confusing names (Tall, Grande, and Venti). By taking away standard descriptions like ‘small’, ‘medium’, and ‘large’, they remove the relation between sizes, subtly aiming to make consumers feel like they aren’t getting too small a portion, or feeling greedy or decadent by ordering a ‘large.’

It’s important to note that decisions when it comes to sales and marketing are not haphazard but, in fact, quite thought out. With eye tracking technology being used in consumer behavior research, marketers are learning more about how to influence a shopper’s decision to buy. The more aware a consumer is, the less likely they are to throw away their hard-earned money, and in today’s economy, every little bit helps.