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How restaurants secretly get you to spend more

If you've ever worked in (or owned) a restaurant, this might be familiar to you.

by: Tessa Purdon | 23 Jun 2016

With Pay Day just around the corner, I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting to eat as many home-cooked meals as possible to save some dosh. And even if you do agree to meet friends for a "quick bite" at your local Chinese joint, no matter how hard you try, it's often tricky trying to keep your spend low without seeming like a complete miser.

It’s pretty common for restaurants to leave prices off the menu – especially at up-market establishments where you are less likely to query the cost of a dish. Some would say that this is a tactic to get the customer to spend more money than they ordinarily would have if the prices were visible.

Another form of sneaky trickery is when the waitrons bring the dessert menu without you asking for it, or offering expensive liquor-laden post dinner coffees. Don’t forget about the “still or sparkling water?” and then there’s the whole use of brand names on the menu to create product associations (think Nutella and marshmallow cheesecake… or sticky rack of ribs drenched in a Jack Daniels sauce).

Now – if you’re not yet aware – the most expensive part of any restaurant bill is the bar bill or drinks that you order. Here are some of the ways restaurants work this and dupe you into a larger bill (and for the waiter – a bigger tip!).

They serve cocktails in small glasses
Cocktails are sipped and finished rather fast and they aren’t cheap either! Especially if the drink contains a high-end (or craft) spirit. Many restaurants - and even bars, will serve the cocktail in small, but more fanciful glassware.

They top up wine glasses when glasses are not empty
This can be a pet hate for many people because it doesn’t allow you to count how many glasses (or gauge the volume) you’ve consumed if the glass keeps getting topped up without being completely finished. And next thing you know – the bottle is finished! You are asked if you’d like another… and the answer? Why not!

They serve wine in bigger glasses
This is pretty self-explanatory but it ties in with the point above – to get you to consume more and hence order more.

They keep the ice bucket on the table
Having the ice bucket close to you allows you to top up your own wine if the server is busy, rather than sitting with an empty glass and waiting patiently for them to do it.

In a big party, they ask different people if they want another bottle of wine
I think this is a clever psychological trick that I have seen being played out. The waiter will remove the empty bottle of wine and ask someone else at the table if they would like another (as opposed to the person who previously ordered the wine). More times than not – the person being asked for the first time – will say yes.

Now you can be aware of these subliminal service hacks the next time you are eating out! It’s important to remember though that restaurants are also businesses trying to make money.

Do you know of other ways that restaurants get you to spend more? Let us know in the comments section!



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