Think twice as you read your next menu.  Unbeknownst to you, the menu just might be designed to get you to spend more money through some pretty clever strategies.  Also, you should keep in mind that there may be extra incentives for your server for lunch or dinner that day.

  1. Staggered Prices – Prices are generally shows right after the dish, and not in a column all neatly labeled on the right hand sign.  In addition, you will often find the cheaper dishes on the left hand side of the menu and the more expensive ones on the right hand side of the menu.   All of this is in part designed to make it difficult to quickly compare dishes and prices.
  2. Bold Type – On almost every menu, you will several items in BOLD FACE type.   This is intentionally done as bold type will draw your eye much quicker to it than the dishes that are not in bold type.  Often, you will see something like the special lobster dish or steak platter that is in this bold face boxed in part of the menu.   These are items that generally have great mark up for the restaurant.
  3. Asking The Server About Appetizers – Be wary that some restaurants will run a contest or a promotion for the server for a drink or a certain appetizer than can earn them extra money.  If you ask the server about what they think is a good appetizer because you have never eaten at the restaurant, you just may wind up with the special of the day.
  4. First and Last on the menu – We generally don’t remember what is in the middle, but what we see first and last.  Which is why the most expensive appetizer often comes first, and you will see among the priciest of dishes last on the menu.
  5. No money signs – Last tip to look out for is no money signs and things being priced at 7.99 vs. 8.00.  If you don’t see money signs it won’t make you think about how much you are spending.  Also, if you order 10 different things for a family of 4, the bill may be ten dollars more than you thought it should be just from the first dollar number you see on the prices.

The only other thing to keep mindful of is the markup on alcohol, which is where some of the greatest markup can happen in a restaurant.  Keep mindful of these tips, and you just might save yourself a few bucks.

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Ted Jenkin, CFP®, AAMS®, AWMA®, CRPC®, CMFC®, CRPS®

Co-CEO and Founder oXYGen Financial, Inc.

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