This Diagram Shows How Restaurant Menus Play Tricks On Your Mind

This Diagram Shows How Restaurant Menus Play Tricks On Your Mind

You may be pledging to eat healthier, but chances are that restaurant down the street has different plans. Restaurants know exactly how to trick your mind into eating the items that make them the most money, rather than the item you may actually want.

Researchers at the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab analysed 217 menus at over 300 diners and published their findings in the International Journal of Hospitality Management. As you’d expect, bold or coloured text, separate boxes, and the spatial layout of the menu can make a big difference. They also found that items with more descriptive items — like “Succulent Italian Seafood Fillet” instead of “Seafood Fillet” — sold significantly more, even when it was the exact same recipe.

None of this is particularly new — in fact, we’ve talked about it once before. But the diagram (however crudely drawn) organises everything nicely, so if you’re more of a visual learner, it’s worth looking at. Also useful is their advice for overcoming these tricks: ask the waiter or waitress what the most-complimented “healthy” item is. They explain:

Hit the link for more information on the study.

Slim by design: Menu strategies for promoting high-margin, healthy foods [Internation Journal of Hospitality Management via Cornell University]


  • Also, not noted – no dollar sign on the prices, which has been found to reduce the perception of what the price is.

    Some menus also have the price right after the dish, rather than right aligned. This makes it harder to compare dishes based on price, making it more likely you’ll choose based on non-financial wants.

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