20 Sneaky Restaurant Tricks You’ve Likely Fallen For

By Ghuman


Have you ever gone out to eat and felt like you were being taken advantage of? You may have been right! Restaurants use a variety of tricks to get you to spend more money than you intended. From clever menu design to hidden fees, there are many sneaky restaurant tricks that you may have fallen for. In this article, we will discuss 20 of the most common restaurant tricks and how to avoid them. With this knowledge, you can make sure you get the most out of your dining experience.

20 Sneaky Restaurant Tricks You’ve Likely Fallen For

Eating out can be a great experience, but it can also be a bit of a minefield. Restaurants are in the business of making money, and they’ll often use sneaky tricks to get you to spend more. Here are 20 sneaky restaurant tricks you’ve likely fallen for.

1. Upselling

One of the most common restaurant tricks is upselling. This is when the server tries to get you to buy more expensive items or add-ons. For example, they might suggest a more expensive bottle of wine or a side dish. It’s up to you to decide if you want to take the suggestion or not.

Server suggesting a more expensive bottle of wine

2. Complimentary Bread

Many restaurants offer complimentary bread before the meal. This is a great way to fill up before the main course arrives, but it can also be a way to get you to order more food. If you’re already full from the bread, you might not be as hungry for the main course.

A basket of complimentary bread

3. High-Priced Drinks

Drinks can be one of the most expensive items on the menu. Restaurants will often offer high-priced drinks, such as specialty cocktails or expensive bottles of wine. These drinks can be tempting, but they can also add a lot to your bill.

A selection of high-priced drinks

4. Limited Time Offers

Restaurants will often offer limited time offers, such as a special dish or a discounted price. These offers can be tempting, but they can also be a way to get you to spend more. Make sure to read the fine print before you take advantage of any offers.

A sign advertising a limited time offer

5. Pre-Meal Snacks

Some restaurants will offer pre-meal snacks, such as chips and salsa or olives. These snacks can be a great way to start the meal, but they can also be a way to get you to order more food. If you’re already full from the snacks, you might not be as hungry for the main course.

A plate of pre-meal snacks

6. Complimentary Desserts

Many restaurants offer complimentary desserts after the meal. This can be a great way to end the meal, but it can also be a way to get you to order more food. If you’re already full from the dessert, you might not be as hungry for the main course.

A plate of complimentary desserts

7. High-Priced Appetizers

Appetizers can be one of the most expensive items on the menu. Restaurants will often offer high-priced appetizers, such as seafood platters or charcuterie boards. These appetizers can be tempting, but they can also add a lot to your bill.

A selection of high-priced appetizers

8. Complimentary Refills

Many restaurants offer complimentary refills on drinks. This can be a great way to save money, but it can also be a way to get you to order more food. If you’re already full from the drinks, you might not be as hungry for the main course.

A server refilling a glass of water

9. High-Priced Sides

Sides can be one of the most expensive items on the menu. Restaurants will often offer high-priced sides, such as mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese. These sides can be tempting, but they can also add a lot to your bill.

A selection of high-priced sides

10. Complimentary Samples

Some restaurants will offer complimentary samples of their dishes. This can be a great way to try something new, but it can also be a way to get you to order more food. If you’re already full from the samples, you might not be as hungry for the main course.

A server offering a complimentary sample


Eating out can be a great experience, but it can also be a bit of a minefield. Restaurants are in the business of making money, and they’ll often use sneaky tricks to get you to spend more. Now that you know some of the most common restaurant tricks, you can be sure to watch out for them the next time you eat out.

If you happen to’ve ever labored in a restaurant, you in all probability really feel like you recognize too a lot about eating out. As soon as you’ve got pulled again the curtain, it is laborious to unsee all of the intelligent ways eating places and servers use to get you to fork over extra of your hard-earned cash.

For many who have not had a server, hostess, supervisor, or one other food-service job, these secrets and techniques are doubtless a thriller. You recognize you have a tendency to depart eating places along with your abdomen fuller and pockets emptier, however you do not know you’ve got been had by some sneaky restaurant tips.

By culling by way of insider info from servers and restaurant managers, together with some scientific research, we have put collectively an inventory of all of the methods eating places get you to order extra objects—and pricier ones at that. Seems, a lot of it comes all the way down to psychology.

In truth, servers start sizing you up the second you sit down. Their aim? To make you consider what you ordered was fully your determination—when actually, you’ve got been guided straight towards it, says an Atlanta-based top-earning waiter and restaurant supervisor with 15 years of expertise who requested to stay nameless. “The aim is not to get somebody to purchase one thing that they do not need. The aim is to have the ability to establish what folks do need, after which use psychology to information them in direction of making that call themselves.”

Many eating places assist the method alongside significantly, sending you unconscious cues by way of strategic menu design, music decisions, and even “decoy pricing.”

Beneath are all of the stunning and sneaky restaurant tips that get you to each eat and spend extra. And for extra, take a look at these 15 Basic American Desserts That Deserve a Comeback.

paying with cash at grocery store

Most eating places do not essentially need you to order the most costly entrée on the menu. They need you to order the entrée that they take advantage of cash on. However how do they get you to try this?

Effectively, based on Joshua Clark of Stuff You Ought to Know, eating places generally place a considerably expensive merchandise with a high-profit margin near a noticeably costlier merchandise with a decrease revenue margin on the menu. By comparability, that makes the previous choice seem to be a very good deal and a accountable selection for diners.

This follow is known as “decoy pricing,” and the wallet-busting merchandise that successfully makes all the things surrounding it seem to be a greater worth is known as “the anchor.”

RELATED: Join our publication to get day by day recipes and meals information in your inbox!

server taking notes for group of friends with drinks

Giving clients a drink menu early on in a meal has turn out to be frequent follow at eating places, and there are just a few the reason why. Firstly, it is no secret that after the second glass of wine, you may end up extra receptive to the persuasiveness of a server who’s handing over a dessert menu if you’re already stuffed.

However on prime of that, ingesting alcohol makes us extra more likely to indulge. A 2015 research out of Indiana College’s College of Drugs revealed within the journal Weight problems discovered that feminine members underneath the affect ate greater than these in a sober placebo group.

MRI scans confirmed that within the tipsy group, the hypothalamus, which controls the metabolism, tended to be extra attentive to the odor of meals, making these girls really feel hungrier.

Questioning what your server is basically pondering? On this candid report, Waiters Confess Their Largest Pet Peeves.

considerate waitress asking table question

Who does not love getting a free teaser (aka an amuse-bouche) earlier than their appetizers even hit the desk? It might seem to be a win for the shopper, however that is not truly the case.

By offering a free amuse-bouche, a server can create a way of indebtedness with out spoiling diners’ appetites, and that is useful when recommending a better ticket entrée or an additional facet dish in a while. Additionally, if you happen to really feel such as you’ve already caught a break by getting one thing free of charge, you are extra more likely to financially justify splurging on a high-priced menu merchandise.

RELATED: Join our publication to get day by day recipes and meals information in your inbox!

plated side of fries

“Would you want a facet of fries with that?” is a basic upselling transfer at eating places, based on Charles Gaudet, CEO of Predictable Income. After all, the reply is often sure.

However when your meal exhibits up, you may discover that you have ordered far more meals than you’d deliberate on consuming. And if you get the invoice, you may additionally see an surprising bump within the price ticket for one thing that you simply thought was included in the price of your entrée.

A server in Reddit’s “Tales From Your Server” discussion board had one other method to this tried-and-true trick. “If you happen to phrase it because it being a ‘pairing’ of dishes as an alternative of only a flat out upsell, folks often reply higher,” Reddit person drburns420 wrote. “Like, ‘Oh, would you additionally wish to attempt a few of our mashed potatoes? They go so properly with that entrée you simply ordered.’”

hand refusing more wine being poured

If a server presents your desk one other bottle of wine, your intestine (or your liver and pockets) may let you know that it is too extreme. However by comparability, a further glass may really feel such as you’re exercising restraint—even when it wasn’t a part of your unique plan. That is why a server tends to ask if you would like one other bottle first.

Our meals business insider informed us that this frequent transfer is the alcohol equal of decoy pricing. Your server is basically utilizing an indulgent selection (an entire bottle of wine) as a crimson herring to make the mid-range selection that the restaurant makes extra money on (a glass of wine) extra interesting.

Questioning what else it’s best to know earlier than consuming out? Listed here are 10 Restaurant Secrets and techniques Waiters Will not Inform You.

woman pointing and admiring item on menu

What’s a restaurant menu if not an commercial for the meals on supply? And what’s one of the frequent visible promoting instruments? The usage of detrimental area to emphasise a message.

Pockets of detrimental area will naturally draw the attention to a featured merchandise by visually singling it out. It is prime actual property for the restaurant’s star: an entrée that’ll make them probably the most cash. “If a menu is full of textual content, the attention will naturally be drawn to any open areas,” says Aaron Allen, a worldwide restaurant advisor. “Objects with the most important revenue margins are sometimes set in their very own area, away from the hustle and bustle of the remainder of the descriptions.”

On prime of that, a easy menu design contributes to a extra glossy, upscale, and refined model picture. Utilizing detrimental area is a win-win for eating places.

waiter carrying two cake slices
Hannah Rosalie Pictures/Shutterstock

Certain, ordering dessert may nudge the invoice up by just a few {dollars} and provides your server a bit of increase within the tip. However from the restaurant’s standpoint, desserts have razor-thin revenue margins and a concrete ceiling for a way a lot diners are keen to pay.

If a server presents dessert “or simply one other glass of wine,” that offers the patron a possibility to show down dessert for one thing that looks as if much less of a dedication and is extra average from a calorie perspective. However the wine is definitely a greater sale for the restaurant.

“A cocktail brings in twice as a lot cash as a dessert, and it does not maintain up a desk on the finish of the meal,” Mark Bucher, proprietor of Medium Uncommon in Washington, D.C., informed The Washington Publish.

RELATED: The science-backed technique to curb your candy tooth in 14 days.

server making a suggestion to couple about menu

Peer stress amongst diners is a actuality. A 2013 research from the College of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign discovered that if you happen to order after somebody who chooses one thing health-conscious, you are extra more likely to comply with swimsuit. (Conversely, if the individual ordering earlier than you splurges on a higher-calorie merchandise, then you definately’re extra more likely to do the identical.)

With that being mentioned, in case your server follows up your order by asking if you would like so as to add “one thing inexperienced” for the desk, the refined message is that your order may’ve been more healthy. Caving and ordering that facet of Brussels sprouts will be the solely technique to assuage your self-consciousness, and as you may’ve guessed by now, your server already knew that.

man thinking of buying wine

It might sound counterintuitive, however severs will usually subtly down-sell a buyer as a type of reverse psychology—particularly if the shopper is “somebody who flaunts that they’ve cash,” our business insider mentioned.

If a server mentions an costly wine choice briefly after which pushes one other bottle that is a “higher worth,” many instances the individual will purchase the costlier wine to indicate that they do not want a “higher worth.”

Need to know extra restaurant secrets and techniques? I am a Restaurant Thriller Shopper—Here is How It Works.

Waiter pouring glass wine at restaurant

Servers who appear honest in sharing the menu objects they personally choose are capable of join extra with their clients.

Reddit person pepperedcitrus shared their method: “If I’ve a man that may’t resolve between the $11 BBQ burger or the $13 bleu cheese and bacon burger, I am going to recommend the $11 choice. I am going to say the BBQ burger is best however he completely must improve the facet to mac and cheese. It is nonetheless a $13 sale.” Others within the Tales From Your Server discussion board agreed that this is likely one of the most typical and efficient methods to earn a buyer’s belief.

However purchaser beware: You continue to could be upsold later. “If he likes it, he is extra more likely to take my suggestion on a dessert or his subsequent drink after which I can recommend the costlier choice,” the Redditor added.

Waiter with protective medical mask and gloves serving guest with coffee at an outdoor bar café or restaurant new normal concept reopening after quarantine

Based on our business insider, one efficient technique to coax a buyer into spending extra at a restaurant is to make an merchandise seem to be a rarity. “Mentioning one thing off the menu that ‘we solely simply bought in and will not have for for much longer’ can immediate a sale,” he mentioned.

pouring water for table

In a Reddit discussion board for servers on the lookout for tips about upselling clients, person zaitsu instructed asking diners in the event that they’d like “flat or glowing” water at the beginning of their meal.

The shopper might really feel embarrassed to order faucet water as an alternative and cave for the pricier bottled water. And whether or not or not a diner was simply pressured might also sign to the server which individual on the desk is almost definitely to present in and order higher-ticket objects usually.

Man shocked by menu

At high-quality eating eating places, you may in all probability discover that costs are sometimes rounded to the greenback. This sends a assured sign that the restaurant’s dishes are definitely worth the worth.

At extra informal eating places, the place clients are more likely to think about worth for his or her cash, you may see objects priced at 5 cents underneath the goal price. So, an entrée might be $12.95, as an alternative of $13 (which psychologically, can seem to be a full greenback extra) or $7.99 (which may seem to be an inexpensive gimmick).

“People are extremely unhealthy at processing numbers intuitively and tend to recollect the very first thing they see in any sequence,” Redditor syzygy12 wrote. “When one thing prices $1.95 or the like, your mind sees $1 first. Then if you attempt to determine about how a lot it prices, your mind says ‘about $1’ slightly than ‘about $2.’”

Waiter tricks diners do not notice.

Once you cease right into a restaurant for drinks solely, your server will often set a single menu on the desk, “simply in case you modify your thoughts.” Then, they will stroll by you with one other desk’s appetizers to get meals in your mind. “If I’ve a desk solely ingesting, I be sure I stroll by them with good trying apps and meals,” Redditor pepperedcitrus defined.

The extra drinks you’ve, the extra doubtless you might be to vary your thoughts and order a dish or two. Moreover, you would not need to drink on an empty abdomen, would you?

open menu with photos and description of dishes

One of many worst errors a restaurant could make on its menu is to incorporate greenback indicators, based on advertising and marketing advisor Martin Lindstrom. “Utilizing a greenback sign up entrance of the worth decreases our chance of constructing the acquisition,” Lindstrom wrote for Time journal. “The greenback signal is a logo of price, slightly than achieve. Eradicating the signal helps the buyer sidestep the cruel actuality of excellent payments and longer-term monetary issues.”

A 2009 research from Cornell College’s Middle for Hospitality Analysis confirmed that teams provided menus with greenback indicators subsequent to the costs spent far lower than these given menus with solely numerals. The greenback signal is a slightly highly effective visible set off that reminds us we’re about to lose one thing we worth, prompting our intuition to spend with restraint.

Undecided about that new dinner spot? Listed here are 17 Indicators You Ought to Stroll Out of a Quick-Meals Restaurant.

Waiters hands full

At high-quality eating institutions, it is not unusual for a seasoned server to establish the completely different persona sorts on the desk, and work them accordingly.

“Figuring out the ‘alpha’ individual on the desk is step one,” our business insider says. “Utilizing the ego of the alpha as leverage, a server can put them ready to purchase a costlier cocktail or bottle of wine by subtly implying that, just like the alpha, it is particular.”

The following step is to establish the beta on the desk, aka “the one that desires to be or impress the alpha,” our insider says. “That individual many instances will purchase a costlier bottle of wine and decide up the test in making an attempt to impress.”

Plates and bowls

Eating places that spend money on heftier flatware and cutlery are sending you a refined sign that their meals is price a hefty price ticket.

Based on Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford College, how a lot we get pleasure from our meals has lots to do with the instruments we use to eat it. In his 2013 research on the topic, which was revealed within the journal Flavour, Spence discovered that as a result of we affiliate heavier plates and cutlery with the expense, we are inclined to view meals eaten off them as extra luxurious and fulfilling.

menu prices listed with no dollar signs on open menu

“Superlative claims—descriptions like ‘the world’s finest burger’—cannot probably be true, and diners will merely ignore them,” restaurant advisor Allen says. “Nevertheless, attractive adjectives, like ‘line-caught’ or ‘sun-dried,’ will feed the creativeness and get our style buds tingling.”

In a 2002 six-week area research from the College of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, researchers discovered that including an attractive description to a menu merchandise elevated gross sales by a whopping 27%. These appetizing descriptions modified clients’ emotions of satisfaction towards the meals and the restaurant, even influencing their ideas about returning sooner or later.

orchestra playing classical music

Curating a extra cultured ambiance with classical music is a widely-used tactic in high-quality eating institutions. Without charge to the restaurant, the music indicators to the shopper that, similar to the ambiance, the meals is beautiful—and price no matter worth they’ve named.

In a 2003 research from the College of Leicester revealed within the journal Setting and Conduct, a restaurant performed classical music, pop music, and no music over the course of 18 nights. The classical music impressed company to spend extra money on their meals in comparison with the nights when pop music or no music performed.

woman looking over menu outside

We have all seen menus wherein the costs are listed on the right-hand facet, distant from the meals decisions. However when diners see this, it is all too straightforward to skim the costs, resolve what they’re snug spending, after which rule out any entrées above that quantity.

“The aim is to get them to scan the distinctive merchandise names and well-written descriptions and make their decisions based mostly on what sounds/seems good,” Allen mentioned. “Contemplating the worth ought to be secondary, not main.” And that is precisely what “nesting” the costs subsequent to the meals objects does.

With this menu design, diners are much more more likely to take into account all of their choices and select based mostly on what sounds most scrumptious with out consulting the worth tag.

For extra, take a look at these 108 hottest sodas ranked by how poisonous they’re.