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Here’s the Real Reason Some Restaurants Don’t Post Prices Online

Why won’t they just let us know how much their food costs?

Researching what restaurant to spend a special occasion at can be a daunting task, and it can be incredibly frustrating to happen upon a restaurant that looks perfect, only to check out its menu and discover that prices aren’t posted. “How am I supposed to know whether I can afford to go there?” you’d probably ask yourself. So why exactly do some restaurants avoid listing process on their websites, assuming that they know full well this practice can lose them business?

There are a handful of reasons a restaurant won’t post prices on their websites. One, the menu could change regularly and what you see online could just be a representation (most of the time, restaurants will mention this). Two, it could be a chain with varied prices across the system. Three, the menu and/or the prices of ingredients could change daily, and it’s too complicated to constantly update the website. (This one’s a little absurd because most restaurant owners use a web service that allows them to quickly and easily make updates).

The fourth, and most plausible reason, is psychology. Yes, there’s always the possibility that the restaurant’s owners are snobs, and are essentially communicating, “If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford to eat here!” The owners may also be tapping into the concept of “perceived value.” That is, when you see a menu item independent of its price, the price of the item has no bearing on whether it looks like something you’d want to order. Unfortunately, this way of thinking is a luxury that few can afford.

So when you see a non-chain restaurant that doesn’t publish its prices online, you can safely ascribe it either to snobbishness or laziness. And nobody will fault you if you choose to take your business to a restaurant that’s more transparent.


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