Enjoy eating out? You're not alone. According to a recent survey, over 130 million Americans will stop by their favorite restaurant tonight. Seems innocent enough, right? Wrong. The truth is, eateries today will work every angle possible to capture your dining dollars, quietly nabbing as much cash as they can while you comfortably chow down. But savvy diners don't have to fall prey to these tactics. Here, a few of their sneaky strategies and how you can put a halt on overspending.
Tactic #1: They rely on wordplay.
According to a recent study, restaurant patrons tend to spend more money when the price on the menu is portrayed without a dollar sign or the word "dollars." Eatery owners also take great pains to avoid putting prices in a straight vertical line so customers can easily scan and select their cheapest item. The visual appearance of menus is also distorted to manipulate customers. For instance, the font sizes of entrees are often two points higher than their listed prices. Boxes and bright colors are used to highlight more expensive items likely to catch a diner's eye, while a bevy of adjectives are often employed to liven up entree descriptions.
Tactic #2: They bank on you being lazy.
A little math can go a long way, particularly when it comes to so-called "value meals." That's right. Contrary to popular belief, ordering à la carte is often more economical. So, take a few seconds to crunch the numbers before you cave in.
Tactic #3: For them, markups are the name of the game.
Coffee and sodas typically cost restaurants 15 to 20 cents per serving, and pasta, which costs pennies, is often tossed into entrees retailing for $25 or more, says Kevin Moll, president of National Food Service Advisors. So, at a fine-dining restaurant, the average cost of food is generally 38% to 42% of the menu price, he says. Talk about food for thought....
The bottom line: Eat, drink but be wary....