1. “It’s more about the sizzle than the steak.”
Business is good for the restaurant industry. Americans now spend roughly half their food budget dining out, and restaurants expect revenue of more than $537 billion in 2007. That’s a 67% increase since 1997. But it’s not just our collective avoidance of the kitchen that’s pumping profits: Restaurants work every angle these days, using marketing psychology to get you to spend more.
At legendary Aureole Las Vegas, spandex-clad “wine angels” retrieve bottles from a 42-foot-tall spirits tower. The thinking behind the spectacle: “Anything that gets patrons’ attention will get them to spend,” says restaurant designer Mark Stech-Novak. Fast-food outlets use a high-stim environment to maximize the source of their profit: “It encourages faster turnover,” says Stephani Robson, senior lecturer at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. “Specifically, the use of bright light, bright colors, upbeat music and seating that does not encourage lolling.”
Even menus are rigged. “We list the item that makes the most profit first so it catches your eye,” says restaurant consultant Linda Lipsky, “and bury the highest-cost item in the middle.”