A successful business is most likely using tricks and gimmicks to give its company an edge. The food business is no exception to the rule. From product placement to the type of music you hear in the background, no one is safe from getting played. But, fear not, we are here to divulge the 10 SNEAKIEST Food Business Tactics You Never Noticed SCAMMING You (Part 2).
10. That Free Bread Isn’t All Free
Any good sit-down restaurant has got to have a basket of complimentary bread in the middle of the table. And the best restaurants? The bread is unlimited. Free bread – or free chips, in certain cases – are like the unofficial way to test if the service and food are going to be worth it, even before your night even starts. However, as much as restaurants like to advertise this pretty basket as being “free of charge,” it’s not entirely true. They might not make you pay for it directly, but in the end, you are. Some restaurants give out bread because it’s traditional for certain types of cuisine, but more often than not, it’s simply to soften you up and make you more lenient with them. Basically, by being generous with customers and offering them something for nothing, it encourages customers to be generous with the staff as well – notably by ordering more food and leaving more sizeable tips. Bread – or chips – are easy to provide, cheap, and liked by the majority of people. It also makes your meal seem even more special and anticipated since you’ve had something to snack on while you waited – especially if you were waiting for a longer time than usual. Who can be mad when you’ve got an entire basket of free bread! Plus, there is some evidence that high-carb foods can stimulate hunger by peaking insulin levels, so who knows, maybe it’ll end up making you buy an extra appetizer or that extra serving of dessert.
9. Tracking Your Order
Ordering pizza has never been easier! You no longer need to endure the stress and anxiety of calling the restaurant on the phone and muttering your way through your order. Now, with one click of a button, you can get your pizza customized, ordered, and delivered right to your door. Thank you, Internet! And for some places, it goes even further with a tracking system that allows you to know exactly where your pizza is at. The Domino’s tracker, for instance, can tell you when your order has been received, when the employee started making it, when it goes in the oven, and when it’s on its way to you. It seems like the perfect technology to accurately know the status of your beloved pie. However, the information can easily be manipulated – and not in your favor. You see, it’s the employees who enter all of that information, so they can easily make your order seem like it’s at a different stage than it really is. Yes, the tracker can show you where the driver is with your pizza, which is always pretty accurate. It’s the other steps that can be misleading. For example, if the manager doesn’t like the orders sitting on the shelf, they will dispatch the order before a driver is ready to take it. But it won’t say that on the tracker. Instead, it’ll say that it’s “passing quality inspection” meaning, it’s sitting on a heated rack. If you’ve been waiting for a pizza that supposedly left the store an hour ago, now you know why. It might make the stores’ prep time more impressive, but it’s really just one big lie.
8. Play On Words
You’ve probably experienced sheer disappointment from a meal you ordered from a restaurant at least once or twice. It doesn’t make sense; it sounded so good when you read the description on the menu! And that’s exactly what restaurants are counting on, the words! Most menus will use fancy adjectives and pretty phrasing to make their food sound as delicious and irresistible as humanly possible. The reason behind this tactic is fairly obvious. When you’re craving chicken wings, you imagine them to be “tender, juicy, and drenched in a delicious sauce,” and reading about it is enough to make your mouth water. It all comes down to the details and choice of words. Think about it: would you rather have a cheeseburger or a 100% Angus beef patty on a golden brioche bun with melted cheese, fresh green lettuce, juicy tomatoes, caramelized onions, and tangy, spicy secret sauce? A study done by the University of Illinois even showed that adding descriptive menu labels increased sales by over 27% and improved attitudes toward the food and the restaurant itself. In other words, if something sounds good, you’re going to assume that it tastes good as well. So don’t be fooled next time you see an enticing description of a steaming plate of nachos; it might just be your brain talking.
7. The Up-sell and The Down-sell
The restaurant business is all about the sale. Whether they want you to order another glass of wine or some dessert, it’s all about feeding you until you can’t take it anymore. Obviously, offering dessert might nudge the bill up by a few dollars and even boost the server’s tip a little, but compared to the other technics they use, this seems like child’s play. One of the most common selling strategies used by servers is up-selling. They will try to up-sell you during every step of the meal-ordering process by offering you upgrades or add-ons. For example, if you order a burger, they’ll most likely ask you if you cheese on that. Or if you order a steak, it’ll be if you want to add some mashed potatoes on the side. The same thing goes for fast-food. For a small extra, you’re encouraged to change your medium fries to large, sweet potato fries, or all kinds of other substitutes. And where there’s an up-sell, there’s also the down-sell. As a little reverse psychology trick, some restaurants will offer lower-priced items, usually to encourage repeat visits. But, more often than not, it pushes people to buy more of the low-priced items, and they end up spending even more than they would have on a single expensive one. Next time, you might think twice about listening to your server when they offer you something extra – it’s not coming out of the goodness of their heart.
6. Eye-Level Equals Buy Level
This particular one might not come as such a surprise. Most people already know that grocery and convenience stores always put the sweets at kid’s eye level, so they’ll nag their parents until they cave. But, that doesn’t mean that retailers forgot about the parents. The eye-level – or buy level – is exactly 5 foot 4 inches, which is the height of an average woman. The products placed at this height are usually the name-brands, aka, the most expensive of items. They’re put there to help persuade you to spend more, without making it obvious. The cheaper, less profitable stuff is usually at the bottom of the shelves or at the very top. You’ll be less likely to go through the trouble of bending all the way down or asking an employee for assistance. Basically, the more visible a product, the higher the sales are going to be. There is also another way to stock shelves that’s becoming more and more frequent in grocery stores. Instead of putting all the goods on the same shelf, the items are laid out across several shelves in vertical “slices,” which keeps the brand in front of the customer’s eyes at all times. So, if you thought that you were being slick by looking up and down, you might have to look sideways as well if you’re hoping to save some money.
5. No Dolla Dolla Sign
When you eat at a fancy restaurant, you already know the bill is going to be higher. You don’t need to be a math genius to figure that out – and neither do the restaurants. They know some people will choose their meals based on how much money they’re willing to spend. If you look closely at the menu, you might notice something missing – and it’s for that exact reason. That’s right, the dollar sign. Some restaurants choose not to display the dollar sign beside the price. Why? Because when you see dollar signs, you think of money. But the restaurants don’t want you to think of money; they want you to think of all the food you can eat. This slight psychological trick might seem innocent and probably not that effective, but it’s the complete opposite. A study by Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality Research showed that guests given the numeral-only menu spent significantly more – a little over 8% more – than those who received a menu with prices showing a dollar sign. Dollar signs seem to discourage people from trying high-dollar menu items because we don’t like to think about the money we’re spending. You’re more likely to buy something if you’re not reminded of the fact that it costs you money. Just remember, dollar sign or not, the meal won’t pay for itself!
4. Healthy Or Not, Here I Come!
The human brain is truly full of wonders. It’s crazy how we can take something as simple as saying “lettuce is healthy” and turn it into something even more complex. Everyone knows that fast-food in general is bad for you. There’s no way around it. However, in order to appeal to the more health-conscious clientele, many fast-food outlets began offering healthy alternatives to their menus, i.e., salads. And since salads are made with lettuce, then they must be healthy, right? At least, that’s what our brain is telling us. But, things aren’t always as they seem. Fast-food salads are not healthy. In fact, they might be even worse than your precious burger with 2 patties and extra cheese. According to a study done in 2009, because brains are apparently weird – the simple presence of said-healthier menu items is enough to make you feel better about your fast-food order. It doesn’t even need to be a salad – you can order a greasy burger and still feel the same “satisfaction” because you know the option of a salad is there. This phenomenon is called “vicarious goal fulfillment.” Basically, just seeing those leafy green options can “satisfy your goal to eat healthily.” Talk about the perfect diet plan!
3. Grill Marks, Anyone?
You don’t need to be a food expert to know that meat grilled over a charcoal flame tastes better than any other cooking method. Sure, if you cook it in a pan on the stove, it’s still going to be good, but nothing can beat those grill marks. Speaking of grill marks, have you ever noticed how on most of your fast-food burger patties, there are grill marks, yet, no grill in sight, just a good old flat cooking surface? How is that even possible? Well, the answer is pretty simple: those grill marks aren’t real. Most fast-food restaurants actually receive products from companies who add those grill marks on the meat, and it’s all in the hope that psychology will work its magic. These grill marks are voluntarily put there for a reason: because it might make you believe that the food tastes better because of it. The marks work as a visual cue for the consumer, to let them think that their meat was grilled, therefore, it must taste better. Going even further, burger patties and chicken pieces are often soaked in a solution of salt, animal fats, smoke flavoring, and other preservatives before being cooked with blasts of hot air—everything to make it taste like it came straight off the barbecue – without any actual grilling involved. So, while you’re enjoying your fake grilled burger thinking it’s the real deal, the fast-food giants are laughing behind our back.
2. Feel The Music
By now, you probably understand that in the food biz, nothing is random. Everything is carefully calculated and tested out in order to make you spend as much money as possible while saving them as much as possible. Yes, that even includes what kind of music gets played in the restaurant and grocery store you’re in. It’s all about the ambiance they want to create. For example, if you go to a Chinese restaurant that plays loud, heavy metal music, you might not feel as at ease than if it were playing softer, traditional Chinese music. If softer music is playing, you’ll probably feel more relaxed and more inclined to stay and order. The same goes for sit-down restaurants. A study from the Universities of Leicester and Surry showed that music could have a significant effect on how much the customer spends. When classical music plays, customers are likely to spend more than when pop music is playing. Tabs were just over 10% higher. The same goes for grocery stores. Music with a slow rhythm tends to make you move slower, meaning you spend more time in the store and end up spending more money. Who knew that listening to Mozart would make your mac & cheese taste even better?
1. Everything Is Not What It Seems
Running a business can be quite expensive – especially running a fast-food restaurant. You need to order all the food and ingredients, and ensure it’s the best quality possible. Unfortunately, the quality part isn’t always respected. When it comes to meat, in particular, some restaurants might choose to take the easy route and not offer you the best they can get. You’ve probably heard about the whole pink slime scandal that happened at McDonald’s a few years back. It was an awful, slimy mess, to say the least. So, since then, McD’s has worked hard to deliver the best cuts of meat. They’ve even assured all their customers that their beef was now free of pink slime and contained no fillers, additives, or preservatives. However, it’s not every fast-food that has followed the Golden Arches’ lead. Our favorite taco place, Taco Bell, has admitted that their seasoned beef only contained about 88% of beef. The remaining 12%? Fillers, emulsifiers, and thickeners. Despite the concerned response from the public, Taco Bell released a statement saying it would not be making any changes to its products. So, really, you pay for a beef burrito, and you don’t even get all beef? Where’s the Wendy’s lady when you need her?