8 Ways Restaurants Get You to Spend more Money (Slideshow)

It’s all about the ‘upsell’
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When you sit down, the first question you’re asked is what kind of water you want. You’re guided towards ordering bottled water (sometimes they don’t even give you the option of tap), and those bottles can be expensive. So unless you’re someplace where the quality of the water is extremely questionable, you’ll be fine with tap. 

1) “Still or Sparkling?”

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When you sit down, the first question you’re asked is what kind of water you want. You’re guided towards ordering bottled water (sometimes they don’t even give you the option of tap), and those bottles can be expensive. So unless you’re someplace where the quality of the water is extremely questionable, you’ll be fine with tap. 

2) “Can I start you off with a cocktail?”

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Servers usually ask this question within 10 seconds of greeting customers, so diners are unprepared and haven’t even had a chance to look over the cocktail list to get a sense of the prices. Ask for some more time: it’ll help slow down the pace of the meal and will give you a chance to realize that your martini will set you back $16. 

3) “We have some specials this evening…”

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It’s rare when a server actually tells you the price of the daily specials, which more often than not are more expensive than most listed menu items. Always ask the price of a special before ordering it, and also remember that many specials are nothing special; they’re just thrown together using leftover ingredients they’re trying to get rid of. 

4) “I would recommend the 2006...”

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Restaurants rake in the dough from wine sales, and have some sneaky ways to get you to spend more money on wine than you planned. Many diners are too embarrassed to order the least expensive bottle on the list, so they’ll opt for the second-least expensive. Restaurants know this, so they tend to place the biggest markup on that very bottle (meaning that its wholesale price very well might be less than the least-expensive bottle). Also, they’ll guide you toward a more expensive bottle under the pretense that it will work better with the food you ordered. 

5) More Sneaky Wine Tricks

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Once you’ve placed your wine order, pay close attention. They might bring out a bottle of the same wine you ordered but from a different, less expensive vintage, hoping you won’t notice that you paid for a more expensive bottle but didn’t receive it. Or, they may lie and tell you that they’re all out of the bottle you ordered but would be more than happy to offer you a similar bottle… one that happens to be a lot more expensive. Finally, they’ll top up your glass every time they pass by, forcing you to burn through it quicker than planned. And if you’ve already finished your bottle by the time the entrees show up, then you’ll just need to order a second, then, won’t you?

6) Power Positioning

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The fact that restaurants design their menus with a goal of ripping off their customers is no secret: the National Restaurant Association even provides some sneaky tips on how best to do it right on their website:

“Menu design draws some inspiration from newspaper layout, which puts the most important articles at the top right of the front page. Some restaurants will place their most profitable items or specials in that spot. Elsewhere in the menu, items you want to sell the most should be shown in first and last position. These are typically your biggest sellers, so put careful thought into which items provide your greatest return. Another “power position” is the inside right page above the center.”

Sneaky, sneaky. 

7) “Would you be interested in any appetizers or side dishes?”

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Ah, the art of the upsell. It’s a subtle way to get you to spend more money under the guise of being helpful. And the power of suggestion is a forceful one: By merely directing you to take another look at the appetizers and side dishes, there’s a good chance that one might catch your eye and you’ll be okay with dropping an additional 10 bucks. Many people also subconsciously aim to please, so it’s easier to just say yes to a side dish instead of turning the offer down. It sounds strange, but pay attention the next time a server tries to upsell you: you’ll find that you subconsciously want to say yes to everything.

8) “Gratuity has been already added…”

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The vast majority of restaurants still let you decide for yourself how much tip you want to leave, but others, especially if there’s a large party, will automatically add at least 18 percent to the bill and not tell you about it. Some checks will leave a space for “Additional Gratuity” but most will look just like any old bill, save for that additional line item. And before you know it, you’ve just left a 38 percent tip. Any time you receive your check, always make sure that the tip hasn’t already been included, because it’s something you’re going to begin to see a lot more of.