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Have you ever gone out to eat planning to stick to your budget and the next thing you know you’re staring at a $75 check? How about shopping? It’s so easy to go into a store with a plan in mind and an hour later you’ve signed up for five store cards and have depleted your bank account. So, why does this happen?

The simple answer is psychological tricks and smart marketing. You may not know this, but restaurants know how to make you spend money. From setting the atmosphere with the proper mood music to product placement that is sure to catch your eye, that budget of yours pretty much goes out the window the moment you sit down to eat.

The same can be said for retail marketing. Despite trying to stick to a budget, most people tend to overspend when they go shopping. This is due to the fact that coupons are a great motivator to spend more and the types of media constantly reinforcing the sales hit you across a variety of vectors.

So what are these Jedi mind tricks that get you to spend more money? Well, we’ve discovered 15 that are sure to blow you away. However, we ask you don’t spill the beans the next time you go out to eat. We don’t want any angry restaurants calling us because they couldn’t trick you into going for the filet mignon.

15. No Dollar Signs on Menus

Newsmax

One reason that restaurants avoid using dollar signs in their menus is they don’t want to remind customers they’re spending money. According to research conducted by Cornell University, guests who were given menus without dollar signs actually spent more money than those who were using menus with dollar signs. The removal of dollar signs allows the customer to focus on the enjoyment of their food rather than the overall cost.

14. Tricky Item Prices

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According to menu designers, prices that end in .99 tend to signify value, while prices that end in .95 tend to be more effective with customers because they feel “friendlier” in a way. Research has also show that people will spend more money when the price has no cents at all and is represented solely by a dollar value.

13. Overly Descriptive Language

Image: Entrepreneur

Another study at Cornell University suggested that items which are described more decadent than they really are tend to be more popular to customers. By offering flowery language and in-depth descriptions, customers will be more inclined to purchase that item regardless of the price because the extra details signal the dish is popular.

12. Food = Family

Image: Trip Advisor

According to food studies, customers relate food to family, especially names of relatives and grandparents. For example, a customer would be more inclined to order Grandpa’s Southern Fried Chicken or Aunt Beverly’s Crispy Corn Fritters because it adds a touch of home and can trigger food memories.

11. Ethnic Food Terms for Authenticity

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Psychologist Charles Spence’s research has found that potential customers are drawn to a certain dish more when authentic food terms are used. For example Italian Sausage and Peppers or German Chocolate Cake. The terms provide a level of authenticity that’s appealing to those ordering off a menu.

10. Visuals for Highlights

Image: TasteBay

While most high-end restaurants avoid using visuals in their menus, studies have shown that menu items with pictures depicting the dish tend to be ordered more frequently than those without. Also, using bold fonts and colors for special menu items that are more expensive tend to elevate the worth of the dish over the cost.

9. Expensive Items to Draw You to Cheaper Ones

TKM

Many times restaurants will utilize expensive items as a decoy for consumers to purchase the cheaper ones. No one expects you to buy the $100 steak, however you may very well order the $30 one right next to it when you do a price comparison. Makes sense, right? Restaurants are always about the bottom line, so they will do what they can to sway you to order what’s most profitable.

8. Offer Two Portion Sizes

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The official term for offering two portion sizes is actually called “bracketing.” The customer doesn’t know how much smaller the smaller/cheaper portion is, so they conclude it’s the best value. However, restaurants were hoping you’d pick that one all along.

7. Analyze Your Reading Patterns

Forks Over Knives

According to restaurant research studies conducted in Korea, restaurant customers are most likely to order the first item their attention is drawn to, which is why most menus have their most profitable items in the upper right-hand corner. According to analyzed reading patterns, customers tend to look in this position first.

6. Limit Your Choices

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In order to promote specific dishes and retain profitability, restaurants will sometimes limit the choices on their menus. Features like tapas and samplers with choices of up to six items can help remove the responsibility of choosing what to eat, and can prod the diner to order more.

5. Set the Mood

Image: GenMusic Ed

Studies have shown that playing classical music in restaurants actually triggers diners to spend more. According to the University of Leicester, this type of music makes people feel more affluent, while pop or country music can cause people to spend less on their meals.

4. Coupons

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Restaurants, as well as major retail outlets are known for using coupons to entice customers to spend more. Whether it’s $10 off a $50 purchase or a get one dinner free with the purchase of a full-priced entree, these coupons are ways to get the consumer into the store/restaurant and spend. However, it’s the fine print that needs to be focused on because the exclusions are usually extensive and a way to corner the customer to purchase what the company wants that’s more profitable.

3. Sign-Up Offers for Better Deals

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Like that offer for $10 off your next purchase? Well, what if we said you could get $25 off if you sign up for a company credit card or loyalty program? Many businesses love to provide better incentives with sign-up offers because the customer will perceive the value to be better, which allows the company to increase their enrollment, while getting the consumer to spend more.

2.  Radio, TV and Print

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Bombarding consumers through various forms of media like radio, TV and print is the BEST way to get them to spend more money according to consumer research. The more the consumer is hearing about that amazing dinner special or selection of tees under 9.99, the more likely they’ll come in for that item and spend more beyond that.

1. Holiday Sentiment

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Just like using familiar terms to trigger nostalgia tends to increase the spending habits of a consumer, so does holiday sentiment. For example, a menu with “Traditional Holiday Eggnog” listed would definitely attract more purchases than simply “eggnog.” Pulling on the heart string’s for nostalgia is one of the oldest marketing tricks in the book. Who wouldn’t want authentic Jewish Potato Pancakes over generic ones?