In his new book, Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It), author William Poundstone dissects the marketing tricks built into menus—for example, how something as simple as typography can drive you toward or away from that $39 steak.
1. The Upper Right-Hand Corner
That’s the prime spot where diners’ eyes automatically go first.
2. The Anchor
The main role of that $115 platter—the only three-digit thing on the menu—is to make everything else near it look like a relative bargain, Poundstone says.
Consultant Gregg Rapp tells clients to “omit dollar signs, decimal points, and cents … It’s not that customers can’t check prices, but most will follow whatever subtle cues are provided.”
--New York Magazine, December 6, 2009, on menu psychology engineering
And the name of the Tabla appetizer, Boodie’s Chicken Liver Masala, draws even deeper from the growing field of menu psychology...
The price of Boodie’s chicken livers, for example, is $9, written simply as 9. ... In the world of menu engineering and pricing, a dollar sign is pretty much the worst thing you can put on a menu, particularly at a high-end restaurant. ...
In the “Ten Commandments for Menu Success,” an article published in Restaurant Hospitality magazine in 1994, Allen H. Kelson, a restaurant consultant, wrote, “If admen had souls, many would probably trade them for an opportunity every restaurateur already has: the ability to place an advertisement in every customer’s hand before they part with their money.”
Some restaurants use what researchers call decoys. For example, they may place a really expensive item at the top of the menu, so that other dishes look more reasonably priced...
Menu design draws some of its inspiration from newspaper layout, which puts the most important articles at the top right of the front page, where the eyes tend to be drawn.
--Sarah Kershaw, NYT, December 22, 2009, deciding to take an early Christmas vacation