Menus are ripe for behavioral science disruption

Yesterday, as I was looking at the menu of a restaurant here in Bentonville, Arkansas, I had a thought: Why don’t restaurants put their most expensive items at the top of the menu?

We know from decades of research that peoples’ perceptions are heavily influenced by the number/price they’re first exposed to in any situation.

So, if they see a $32 plate of oysters at the top of the appetizer section, they’ll likely think that a $15 chicken finger plate is a good deal… but this probably won't be the case if the top item is a $6 plate of “artisan bread” or a $7 mixed green salad.

$15 looks expensive when compared to $6 or $7… but when compared to $32, not so much.

My hunch is that those who design menus don’t know anything about the behavioral sciences, but I’ve always heard that there are ‘menu design specialists’ that top chains hire to encourage as much spend as possible…

If that’s the case, then we would expect the menus of restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory, Chili’s, etc. take advantage of psychological hacks like this. And, from what I call tell, they don’t really do this, either.

I spent about 45 minutes this morning look at the menus of 6 major restaurant chains, and I couldn’t find any good, clear cut examples of them using anchoring effectively…

But I know almost nothing about the restaurant/food world.

This is another area in which someone (like you) armed with a bit of behavioral science know-how could do some damage.

Until tomorrow,

Jason

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Jason Hreha