This is a guest post from my online buddy Robb Engen. He writes over at Boomer & Echo, as well as contributes to Moneyville.ca. I love his look at some of the ways restaurants try and squeeze a little more out of you. Personally, even knowing this, I still like to eat out — I enjoy the experience.
We all love going out to eat to enjoy good food and wine with our friends and family. But when you go to a large chain restaurant, keep in mind that it’s a business and their aim is to boost the bottom line at the same time they’re creating an enjoyable evening out for you.
When I worked in the hospitality industry, I learned a few different techniques to get customers to spend more on their dining experience. Here are a few tricks restaurants use to get more money out of your wallet:
The menu is the place where people choose their meal so a lot of time is spent trying to items more profitable. The uses of shaded boxes and borders around items on the menu are designed to catch your eye and can increase sales by 25 per cent. The word, ‘special’ or ‘new’ can increase orders by up to 20 per cent.
Often these highlighted items are dishes with the lowest food cost which means they may not the best value for you.
Each menu item is priced according to its cost. Most restaurants want to keep their food cost below 30 per cent. However, you won’t see oddball pricing of $19.31 simply because it fits a formula. Customers don’t perceive a difference between $19.31 and $19.99, so the restaurant raises the price and the extra 68 cents goes to the bottom line
In the hospitality industry, more emphasis is placed on training employees to become better sales people. The waiter, hostess, and bartender become extensions of their sales and marketing team.
Now up-selling has become the industry standard, as side dishes, appetizers, desserts and drinks all help build a higher average cheque per customer.
Your server is trained to ask if you want to add mushrooms or prawns to your steak dinner, or to try a specialty coffee with your dessert. Some restaurants expect their servers to suggest bottled water or Perrier when you ask for water, and offer a bottle of wine instead of the two glasses you asked for. The best servers take every opportunity to up-sell you on an item.
I had to say, “no thanks”, at least a half dozen times during our last restaurant experience.
Buffets aren’t a big money maker for most restaurants, which means they likely offer the best value for you. Still, a good restaurant can find ways to make money on their buffets.
Restaurants use smaller plates on their buffet line, which reduces the amount of food you can take at one time. The buffet line starts with an assortment of low-cost breads and salads to fill you (and your plate) up faster.
Some restaurants can even find savings with the smallest of items. Take drinking straws, for example. Your non-stop pop might come with the thinnest straw possible to help slow down your consumption. On the other hand, alcoholic beverages usually come with a big fat straw so you’re able to drink much faster.
What other tricks do restaurants use to make more money from you?
Robb Engen writes about Canadian personal finance at Boomer & Echo. Together with his mom, (she’s the Boomer, he’s the Echo) they offer their own unique perspectives on saving, investing and personal finance.
Image source: Al Jazeera English via Wikipedia Commons
This post was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance at the THE Canadian Personal Finance Blog.