Thursday, December 24, 2009

Eat at Uncle Monkey's

One of my most beloved childhood pastimes was playing restaurant. This game involved devising prolix menus featuring "delicious, scrumptious, mouthwatering, aromatic" crab cakes or whatever I was serving that night. Apparently they are hiring consultants to do that nowadays. Tuesday's NYT piece on menu psychology discusses the adjectives, prices, fonts, page placement and other strategic variables that can entice diners to order an item:

People like the names of mothers, grandmothers and other relatives on their menus, and research shows they are much more likely to buy, say, Grandma’s zucchini cookies, burgers freshly ground at Uncle Sol’s butcher shop this morning and Aunt Phyllis’s famous wedge salad.

Research subjects also spent significantly more when no monetary symbols appeared on the menu, as in "14" rather than "$14." Apparently these dollar signs trigger negative emotions related to the pain of paying and induce diners to behave more prudently. Personally, I feel like seeing a simple "14" and even more so "fourteen" is a big tipoff that I'm in a fancypants type of place and about to drop a lot of dime.

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