How Restaurants Use Psychology to Make You Spend More Money


[♪♩INTRO] Whenever you go out for dinner or drinks, just know this:
your brain is being hacked. Like with most businesses, the goal is to
make money, so it kinda makes sense that restaurants and bars would do whatever they can to get
you to spend more of it. But there are a lot more ways they can manipulate
you than you might realize. From the adjectives on the menu to the size
of the plates, establishments can use all kinds of psychological tricks to influence
your behavior. Some of them are so hardwired that even after
watching this video, you still might be fooled. But at least if you know what’s happening,
there’s a chance you can take back control. The mind-hacking begins with the menu. For example: Have you ever noticed that a
lot of restaurants list prices as plain numbers? There’ll just be a “15” next to the
crab cakes, with no dollar sign or any other indication that it’s a price. That’s not an aesthetic choice. Studies have shown that people spend more
when menus don’t have dollar signs, probably because it keeps you from thinking about how
much money your order will cost. There’s also a lot of thought that goes
into how the items are listed. The options aren’t “hamburger” or “baked
fish” — instead, they’re described as “Joe’s meaty burger” or “succulent
Italian fillet.” That’s because researchers have found that
adding colorful descriptors can increase sales by up to 27%. So you might want to translate the choices
in your head before you decide what to order. Restaurants and bars can also influence both
how much you spend and how much you consume by using glasses and dishes with certain shapes
and sizes. One thing they can do is vary the size of
their dishes to take advantage of what’s known as the Delboeuf illusion, where two
identical circles look different based on the size of circles around them. Not to be confused with the Labeouf illusion,
where two identical circles are actually props in a short experimental film. In the Delboeuf illusion, if one of the circles
is surrounded by a third circle that’s just a little bigger, the inside circle will look
larger than its twin. But if the outside circle is much bigger,
the inside circle will look smaller. Since food on a plate is essentially a circle
of stuff surrounded by the circle of the plate’s edge, this illusion can make the same portion
look bigger depending on the size of the plate. A 2012 study in the Journal of Consumer Research
confirmed this by showing that people overestimate portions when they’re using large plates,
serving themselves more than they really wanted. With small plates, they serve themselves less. The Delboeuf illusion is so convincing that
studies have found you’ll actually feel more full when you eat a meal from a smaller
dish. That’s why all-you-can-eat buffets tend
to keep their plateware small — so you think you’re eating more when you really aren’t. Meanwhile, restaurants where you pay based
on what you order tend to serve their entrees on large platters, hoping to convince you
that you still have room for dessert. There’s also a lot they can do with glassware. Research has shown that people are willing
to pay much more for drinks if you match their expectations when it comes to the shape of
the glass. Because of cultural influences, we think some
drinks simply belong in certain glasses—like a rounder, larger glass for red wines than
whites. And when there’s a mismatch, that creates
cognitive dissonance—the psychological stress we feel when a situation leads to conflicts
between our attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors. You might not think of drinking hot chocolate
from a water glass as something that would cause psychological anguish, but it does! Which means we find the overall experience
less pleasant, and we don’t want to pay as much for it. Certain shapes can also get you to drink faster. In a study published in PLoS ONE in 2012,
researchers found that we drink beer faster from curved glasses than straight ones. That’s probably because our brains tend
to judge how much liquid is left based on how far up the glass it reaches, even if the
glass is much wider at the top. So with a curved glass, it’s harder to pace
yourself, and by the time you think you’ve finished half your beer, you’re actually
much more than halfway through. You might end up finishing the beer much faster
than you wanted … and the faster you drink, the faster you need a refill. We also tend to think tall, skinny glasses
contain more than short, fat ones, even when they don’t. Studies have found that we pour more into
short, fat glasses, and we drink more from them—up to 88% more. That might come from what’s known as the
horizontal-vertical illusion, where vertical lines seem longer than horizontal ones. Psychologists aren’t totally sure why the
illusion works, but it might be because our visual field is wider than it is tall. So, like, a line of the same length takes up a greater
percentage of what we see vertically than it does horizontally, which makes us think
it’s bigger. Restaurants can even influence the way your
food or drink tastes based on how they serve it to you. One tactic uses what’s known as shape symbolism,
where we associate roundness with sweetness and angles with bitterness. Like with the horizontal-vertical illusion,
we’re not sure why this is, but it’s possible that we conflate bitterness and physical sharpness
because they can both be signs of danger. Whatever the reason, shape symbolism makes
us perceive chocolate cut into rounds as sweeter than the exact same bar in chunks, or beer
from a curved glass as fruitier. And that’s just the beginning. A lot of flavor manipulation comes from a
phenomenon called sensation transference, where we transfer the properties of the plateware
or utensil to the food we eat from it. So for example, if you want to make soda taste
cooler and more refreshing, you can put it in a cool-colored container—a tip Pepsi
took to heart. Even the heft of your cutlery can make a difference. Since we automatically associate weight with
quality, we’ll think yogurt tastes better when we’re eating it with a silver spoon
than when we eat it with a plastic one. And of course, as Iron Chef taught me, plating
also matters. In one study, researchers presented 60 people
with a salad of the exact same ingredients tossed, neatly sorted, or arranged to look
like a famous Kandinsky painting. Before they even tried it, participants said
they knew they’d like the artistic salad more, and ultimately, they rated it 29% tastier
than the other salads. So if you’re trying to reduce how much you
eat and drink — or how much you spend — you might want to keep an eye out for some of
these tricks the next time you go out to eat or meet up at the bar with your friends. Because practically everything about the place
is trying to sell you something. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow
Psych! If you’re interested in learning about more
ways businesses can use psychology to manipulate people, you can check out our video about
the tactics advertisers use to persuade you. [♪♩OUTRO]

100 thoughts on “How Restaurants Use Psychology to Make You Spend More Money”

  1. Thank's for the tips. I'll certainly be using these for my customers. I'm already liking the "Jolly Green Giant" for one of my appetizers.

  2. There's an easy solution to this: read whats on the menu and order the thing that you want. And then don't order anything else.

  3. The Delboeuf illusion does not affect how muck I eat or weather I feel full, but it does make me feel ripped off when it is used to charge me for more than I got.

  4. Lmao, I get what sounds the tastiest based on the description, eat till I'm full, and usually skip dessert because I'm usually full from the actual meal. I also don't drink so those alcohol tricks can't effect me. The cool temp from a cool colored can probably doesn't effect me either because for one thing I like coke more then pepsi and for another I don't like my soda cold. Cool, yes, cold, no. It gets syrupy and just meh to me.

  5. Or the Actual Cannibal LaBeouf illusion where you're walking in the woods

    There's no one around and your phone is dead

    Out of the corner of your eye you spot him:

    Shia LaBeouf.

    He's following you, about 30 feet back

    He gets down on all fours and breaks into a sprint

    He's gaining on you

    Shia LaBeouf

    You're looking for you car but you're all turned around

    He's almost upon you now

    and you can see there's blood on his face

    My God, there's blood everywhere!

    Running for you life (from Shia LaBeouf)

    He's brandishing a knife (It's Shia LaBeouf)

    Lurking in the shadows

    Hollywood superstar Shia LaBeouf

    Living in the woods (Shia LaBeouf)

    Killing for sport (Shia LaBeouf)

    Eating all the bodies

    Actual cannibal Shia LaBeouf

    Now it's dark and you seem to have lost him

    but you're hopelessly lost yourself

    Stranded with a murderer

    you creep silently through the underbrush

    Aha! In the distance

    A small cottage with a light on

    Hope! You move stealthily toward it

    but your leg! Ah! It's caught in a bear trap!

    Gnawing off your leg (Quiet, quiet)

    Limping to the cottage (Quiet, quiet)

    Now you're on the doorstep

    Sitting inside: Shia LaBeouf

    Sharpening an axe (Shia LaBeouf)

    But he doesn't hear you enter (Shia LaBeouf)

    You're sneaking up behind him

    Strangling superstar Shia LaBeouf

    Fighting for your life with Shia LaBeouf

    Wrestling a knife from Shia LaBeouf

    Stab him in his kidney

    Safe at last from Shia LaBeouf

    You limp into the dark woods

    blood oozing from your stump leg

    But you have won; you have beaten

    Shia LaBeouf

    Wait! He isn't dead (Shia surprise)

    There's a gun to your head and death in his eyes

    But you can do Jis Jitsu

    Body slam superstar Shia LaBeouf

    Legendary fight with Shia LaBeouf

    Normal Tuesday night for Shia LaBeouf

    You try to swing an axe at Shia Labeouf

    But blood is draining fast from your stump leg

    He's dodging every swipe, he parries to the left

    You counter to the right, you catch him in the neck

    You're chopping his head now

    You have just decapitated Shia Labeouf

    His head Topples to the floor, expressionless

    You fall to your knees and catch your breath

    You're finally safe from Shia Labeouf …

  6. When a customer bitches about their $150 meal, they get compensated $3 and think they "won" so they continue the pattern and keep coming back for that $3 discount

  7. Yeah but except for the first one, all the illusions are positive, they give us a more pleasant experience

  8. I add up the total in my head, imagine myself full, and compare to my average satisfaction after a $5 burrito.

  9. You can use these techniques when making food for yourself. Its dumb but I can't make my brain think otherwise. I'm going to always thing a smaller circle has more food than the larger circle. Unless I actually measured the food. I'm going to always think the tall glass has more liquid than the short round glass because I'm not measuring the ounces. Might as well embrace it for home cooking.

  10. This is why if you're struggling to eat enough you should use a larger plate and put the same amount of food on, cuz then it'll look smaller, or vice versa

  11. In Japan, they've convinced people that extra head on your beer makes it taste better. It's so ingrained that even the commercials on TV support this. However, in reality you're getting about 15 or 20% less beer than if your mug were filled neatly.

  12. What about taco bell? It is just called a crunchy or soft taco wrapped in paper and you just get a bucket of soda and the price is like clearly there. Also I haven't noticed that there are many of these used where I am from. They just call it a burger and tell you the price clearly and put it on a normal sized plate. Also the whole hot chocolate from a glass at least for me would like severely burn the inside of my hand. It needs to be in a mug so you don't touch the hot glass.

  13. You know when you're poor when the first thing you look for on a menu is what is inexpensive, not the descriptions.

  14. 3:02 I know that I don't like getting a pint in one of those stemmed pint glasses you get in and around London as opposed to the normal straight ones. It just feels wrong.

  15. If pshychology tricks work on you

    Watch the montage I made with the funniest comments from this video (•◡•) /

  16. Next time I go to a restaurant I don't want to translate the menu, because I want to be hyped about the food I already know I'm going to get because I already have my expectations met before I go so I'm guaranteed to meet them.

  17. Everything about restaurants is designed in such a way that tells me to stay away from them.
    I won't go there on my own.

    On social situations, I'd be a pain in the ass.
    Everything there is just… Iffy.
    And expensive like hell.

    Being cheap and having many issues regarding what I eat, means that I'm naturally immune to restaurants.
    Also, I don't drink.

  18. OMG Burn in hell all those evil restaurant proprietors… tricking us to drink and eat more than we wanted… lols… seriously, these people…always playing the victim… you are better off staying home then… don't even bother going out

  19. That with the buffet makes sence, and the "i already went 2 times, I want to go again but I am feeling stared at" completes that. But on the other side when you see what people stuff on their plates, forming a perfect pyramid, they would do so with big plates to and that would result in throuing away a lot of food. In the "pay what you eat – system" it's different, ridiculously big plates and no one wants to stand the line a second time, so you still have some space for just a bit more

  20. is it really a mystery to scientists why vertical lines look longer? I mean in nature on average a vertical distance is more significant to us, say for example a climb or a drop compared to a path.

  21. The comparison between silver and plastic spoons isn't quite valid here – different material compositions do have different effects on flavor. There's an episode of the food podcast Gastropod that digs in scientifically into this – even to the point of doing a flatware tasting.

  22. The biggest trick they have done is started putting more food on the plate and charging more money. For example, if you go to The Cheesecake Factory, a single order of food is really enough for two people. Sure they offer you a to go box and lots of people take half of their order as a leftover. However they just got you to buy twice of what you needed/wanted and of course charged you twice of what you probably should have spent. However their double portion maybe only cost them a few dollars more to make, but the profit is much more. Imagine going into Subway and they say that the only sandwiches they sell now are Party Sized subs, but of course you can take the rest home. I'm exaggerating of course to make the point.

  23. In France, this would be a class in high school. XD Though, their focus there is more on the experience and enjoyment of the food, rather than how to increase profit. A lot of these 'mindful eating' techniques can be great things to practice in your own home too!

  24. the weirdest thing is, i work in the restaurant industry, and it’s like.. we know this automatically, but don’t know why. like no one says “yes i want to psychologically manipulate this person into thinking their dish is bigger” but we’ll be like “nah that looks weird on such a big plate. put it on a smaller plate.” or “mmm that one doesn’t seem right with a round glass. put it in a regular tall glass that seems better”

  25. Great vid but I honestly there is nothing restaurants do that make me spend more than I want to I got bills to pay lol. Being 100% honest

  26. Lol. Well yeah. I tip as long as food is actually good, and if service was too. If it is bad enough, I do go to management, and I try not to get people fired, just taught correctly, or give them a break, as workloads can vary with amount that individuals may be able to handle…
    Yes, based on some sensory deprivation I went through as a child, I was taught how to differentiate tastes in different compounds within and separate from…

  27. Only plate thing can fool me. Lol…
    1. I always set budget before going to a restaurant.
    2. The plate trick can fool me if I'm not hungry.
    3. I always prefer bottled drinks.
    4. I thing craved glass don't hold much. Because I really did a experiment with how much a craved glass hold more than a normal glass.
    5. I drink from a fat horizontal glass in my home.
    6. I don't like plastic cutlery because I think it is tacky and cheap. So I don't pay or taste more for sliver cutlery, I just appreciate having classic cutlery.
    6. Decorations can be eye candy but no I prefer taste over anything. I ate dishes with beautifully decorated yet didn't enjoy it.

  28. At 1:50 pause the video and close your left eye. Now, with your right eye, look at the left circle and move the screen farther or closer to you (or the opposite). Stop when the circle on the right disappears. This is where your "blind spot" is (go ahead and search that term).

    Pretty neat, right?

  29. At 06:26: This looks like Jean Piaget's childhood development test involving the amount of liquid in a long vs a short glass.

  30. The angle problem doesn't seem to apply to that smooth, sumptuous, triangular piece of cheesecake over there…

  31. I swear none of these tricks work on me. So, does that make me a freak, or just super intelligent?
    And another thing…. The blue can (Pepsi) that you say makes people think the beverage is cooler seems convincingly debunked by the fact that Coca-Cola has outsold Pepsi for decades with …. their famous RED cans.

  32. They make you wait forever between entrees and mains so that you order more wine because it’s awkward to sit there waiting with nothing to eat or drink

  33. Honestly, the only reason I’d eat the artistic one is bc it looks prettier, but it looks like some ppl squished some fruits and painted the salad with it, so I wouldn’t be looking forward to it. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t even pick the artistic salad!

  34. I’ve worked in a lot of restaurants. Most employees aren’t sophisticated enough to use these tricks.

  35. Idk if it’s this narrator or the format of the video but I find videos in this format really boring. Relying on stock footage or infographics for background or foreground footage might be a better fit for this channel.

  36. Americans should eat on small dishes, that way we'll eat smaller portions and not become the fat, heart disease ridden people we've become….BELCH!

  37. What about the images they show for the food, which looks very different than what they really are?
    There was even a movie showing how annoying it is: https://youtu.be/zJs9p-VNORw?t=247

  38. Also, another thing I've noticed, they have same food with three different shapes and names just to make you believe that there are many choices and so you're tempted out of curiosity to try out the supposedly different food when in fact they taste almost the same

  39. Okay so I've obviously always known that our vision is wider than it is tall but I didn't realize it until now and holy cow am I having a realization moment right now.

  40. Funny, when I see a restaurant menu with no cents listed, I immediately know all the food is overpriced and not going to be that good. I have yet to be disappointed.

  41. My favourite is when you're at a café which also has some snacks, sandwiches or cakes, so you wouldn't necesserily buy them, you mostly sit down for coffee, BUT there's a few TV's around the place and they're all turned on 24kitchen :)))

  42. I would argue that the salad from picture B. might be more delicious simply because it physically requires less effort to get the right amount of veggies and sauces with a single scoop.

  43. Hamburg is …burger , lettuce .tomato. 3.50… Hamburg special ..lean burger ..crisp California lettuce..sunripened tomatoes.. 7.85 .same burger you are paying more for the ADJECTIVES !!!

  44. Wow Most of that I thought was something everyone knew.
    I’m the one that at an all you can eat buffet I spread out the food on the plate to make it look like there’s more. When the same amount would fill a smaller plate nicely without there being too much. That way I can eat more then 1 plate. I don’t really do the whole pile food on top each other thing, unless it’s a bun.

  45. phones are smaller size so I would think when you learning reading studying something on your phone you would be more worn out yes, no, maybe?

  46. Tricks and illusions… they dont work. Sad if you couldnt tell the food on the small plate was the same as the food on the large plate. As for the art salad's 29%, they re all the same salad. Get a grip people.

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