Dining on a Dime: 5 Tricks to Avoid Over-Spending at Restaurants

Money The List
By: Kristina Guerrero | Meredith Witthar Posted: 8:10 PM, Feb 2, 2018 Updated: 10:46 AM, Jul 31, 2018

Restaurants might be whipping out some secret tricks to get you to spend more than you have to. Americans are eating out more than ever — almost five times a week! And if you notice that the tab comes up to more than you expected, here’s probably some of the reasons why.

1. Wine Prices

Mark Oldman, author of How to Drink Like a Billionaire, says there’s an old adage in restaurants that reads: “diners will eat you poor and drink you rich.” When you’re checking out the wine list, chances are you’ll do both of  the following things: your eyes will go directly towards the bottom of the list, and you’ll choose the second to third cheapest option. You know, so you won’t look like a penny-pincher. Restaurants know this, and that’s where they’ll sneak in a higher markup in price. So, don’t be afraid to ask for the least expensive. You’re not being cheap — you’re actually outsmarting them!

2. Menu Tricks

Believe it or not, there’s a strategy behind how things are listed in menus and why they’re organized the way they are. Eating behavior expert Brian Wansink says color has a lot to do with what we order. People will often order something as long as it’s a different color than the other items on the menu.

3. Price Anchoring

Restaurants love this technique. What price anchoring essentially does is showing the extremes of what people are probably going to avoid. For example, the majority of customers won’t order a $40 steak, but it’s there to make that $20 burger look cheap compared to it. So, don’t take the bait — set a budget and stick to it!

4. Music

One thing we know about music is that the louder it is, the more agitated people tend to become. The more agitated and excited the person is, the more they tend to eat the food that’s in front of them. In restaurant terms, that means you’ll spend more! Restaurants that want to get customers in and out quickly will play fast, loud music to get you eating quickly. The slower the music, the slower you go. The slower you go, the more you’ll linger, stay longer and eventually drink more as well. And as it turns out, the type of music can also get you to spend more. A study out of the University of Leicester found that classical music in restaurants makes us feel wealthy. Hmm, must be some link between violin strings and purse strings!

Restaurants are becoming more and more clever when it comes to making strategies that’ll get you to spend more than you have to. Whether it’s the music or the menus, pay close attention to avoid falling into these tricks and give your wallet a break!

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