In the post-Recession economy customers may want to purchase cheaper items, but restaurant owners fight back by employing little tricks to get you to spend more or purchase more profitable items. However, you may not even notice some of the cost cutting measures used by some of the top restaurants in America.
1. The Illusion of Value
Restaurants tend to put low-margin menu items next to lower-priced, high margin items. For instance, a restaurant might place a chicken dish which costs $25 next to a pasta dish – pasta costs mere pennies per pound compared to several dollars per pound for chicken – that costs $20. In this example, although the pasta dish costs less, the restaurant spends far more money on the chicken entrée.
Alternatively, some restaurants place the lowest-margin items on the last page of the menu. Restaurant menu eye movement studies show that people tend to look at the center of the menu first, so restaurants also tend to aggregate the high-margin item at the front and center of a menu, according to SmartMoney.
2. Switching Out More Expensive Fish
Some restaurants try to pass off less expensive seafood as a higher priced fish. For example, in 2006, The Daytona-Beach News Journal found that 40 percent of local restaurants tested were passing off less expensive fish, such as Pollack, as the similar but more expensive grouper fish.
3. No Water
Many restaurants ask patrons if they would like water as soon as they sit down. However, suggesting a glass of water tends to cut down on sales of higher margin drinks, such as soda and tea. In addition, some restaurants sell the idea of avoiding the suggestion of water as a socially conscious business practice.
Just like how airlines sometimes oversell a flight because statistics suggest a certain number of people will miss their flight, restaurants also overbook their tables. Thus, making a reservation doesn’t guarantee a table at some restaurants because the establishment wants to avoid an empty table.
Ask the waiter where fish comes from before ordering it. If the waiter does not know the origin of the fish, you might want to order a different meat entrée. Some people, for example, can tell the difference in taste between Maryland crab and cheaper crab found in the Pacific Ocean.
In general, you should not tip the host or manager to get quicker seating regardless of whether or not you have a reservation. Instead, proper etiquette requires you to tip the host $10 or $20 after your meal and next time you should receive much more prompt service.