How much can restaurants influence what we order? Menus are written with appetizing adjectives like “roasted” or “marinated” (“fried” should be avoided); highlight dishes with different fonts, colors, and pictures; move items to the center right of our line of sight; and drop dollar signs from prices, all in an effort to make higher profits, according to a recent Baltimore Sun blog post. As an educated diner, it’s hard to imagine being tricked into buying a dish you don’t want, but the conventions turned up in menus from many of our favorite restaurants. Check out our list to see who follows the rules.
Cozy Soup 'n Burger
Evidence: No dollar signs. Plenty of pictures, stars, and colors highlighting menu sections. The most expensive items on the page —Tasty Wraps for $14.50 — have a picture and fall in the center-right of the page. Plus the beef and chicken options for wraps are “marinated.”
Evidence: No dollar signs. Pictures draw attention to the expensive main courses, which are also positioned center-right. Avoids saying fried potatoes by calling a side dish “papas fritas.”
Evidence: No dollar signs. Bees buzz around the $35 prix fixe menu. New executive chef Scott Bryan is highlighted in red. Entrées like roasted organic chicken and Berkshire pork are on the center right of the page.
Evidence: No dollar signs. Uses the term "roasted" for a tomato sandwich. Headers for food colored blue and typed in caps.
Needs to Improve: The story of the restaurant could be switched from the far right to the left so that dishes would display front and center.
Evidence: Funny fonts highlight sections of the menu. Burger names are capped.
Needs to Improve: Expensive Plats Principaux could be made more central or have a picture.
Evidence: Pretty fonts and designs highlight the small plates. Nightly two-course menu has its own font.
Needs to Improve: They waste a designed box and central-right location on cheap contorni.
Retail psychology of menus: the best advertising ever [Baltimore Sun via Big Money]