Going out to eat can be super expensive -- and that's exactly how some restaurants like it. There are actually a bunch of sneaky ways that a restaurant's menu tricks you into spending money.
1) They won't use dollar signs
Not all restaurants do this, but the ones that do are hoping it'll stop you from thinking about money. It may seem like a small thing that wouldn't mess with your wallet that much, but a study from the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration shows people spent a lot more when they didn't see dollar signs.
2) Menu placement
Studies show that your eyes gravitate to the upper right corner of a menu, so that's where restaurants will usually put what is called "The Anchor," a ridiculously expensive item that makes everything else around it seem like a bargain in comparison.
On the other hand, the bottom left area is the last place you're likely to look, so that's where the cheaper dishes are -- usually burgers and sandwiches.
3) Fancy fonts
Some restaurants will single out dishes with boxes or fancy fonts. Even if you think the item seems pricey at first, you might think it's worth it because it's highlighted.
4) Strategic wording
Restaurants will try to catch your attention by being as descriptive as possible. For instance, does "bacon mac and cheese" sound like it's worth $12? Probably not, but "blended four cheese truffle macaroni and cheese with applewood smoked bacon" probably does. (Actually, bacon mac and cheese always sounds amazing so maybe that was a bad example.)
Have you fallen for any of these tricks? Ever notice any other sneaky little tactics? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Check out 5 secrets restaurants don't want you to know:
Rachael Ray: 5 Secrets Restaurants Don't Want You to Know
How restaurant menus trick you into spending more money
Tip #1: Be frugal, and wise, when choosing wine
We've all been in the situation where we're going on a date but we're also on a budget. But, as Sara says, we don't want to seem cheap, so instead of ordering the least expensive wine, we order the second-cheapest bottle of wine. But Sara reveals that restaurants know we do this, and therefore the second-cheapest wine is the most marked up! Sara advises that you take a look at a restaurant's wine list before you go, and see which wine is the best value.
Tip #2: Don't be fooled by "fancy" names
When you order at a restaurant, you want to seem sophisticated so instead of ordering familiar items, you go for something that sounds exotic, like Shrimp Scampi Tagliatelle. But, Sara reveals, that actually translates to "Shrimp Shrimp Noodles"! Bottom line: order what you want to eat, not what you think will make you seem fancy.
Tip #3: Beware the wedge salad
An iceberg wedge salad with blue cheese dressing can be a pricey item on restaurant menus, but it costs pennies on the dollar to make at home. Moreso – Sara reveals that restaurants don't do a thorough job of washing the lettuce! So skip the restaurant wedge salad and make it at home instead.
Bonus Tip: To properly wash iceberg lettuce, remove the core, turn upside down and run water into the hole left by the core. The water will filter through the leaves, cleaning them. Then just turn over, plop into a strainer, and let it dry for about 20 minutes.
Tip #4: Don't Pay Steakhouse Prices
Steakhouses charge exorbitant prices for aged meats. But Sara reveals that it's super easy to do it yourself at home. Just take a typical supermarket steak, wrap it in cheesecloth, put it on a wire rack so that it can breathe, and leave it in the coldest part of your refrigerator for about four days. Rachael comments on Sara's home-aged rib-eye, "It has a firm texture to it, and so much tenderness and depth of flavor. It almost becomes earthy as well as meaty."
Tip #5: Make Your Own Restaurant Home Fries
How do restaurants get their home fries so crisp and delicious? Sara is showing you! Just drop cubed russet potatoes into boiling water that contains ½ teaspoon of baking soda. Boil for only one minute, then drain and add back to the hot pan. Cook for about 30 seconds in the pan to develop the starch on the outside of the potatoes (this will get you that amazing crunch factor you're looking for). Add butter and salt to the pan, and when melted, pour potatoes on a hot sheet pan and add a bit of EVOO. Roast at a whopping 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Done!