Posted on December 25, 2009
Merry Christmas! While New Yorkers are opening presents, strolling down Fifth Avenue to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree and the department store windows, and generally displaying holiday-ish behavior, we’ll offer our holiday gift to you--a little insight into the minds of those trying to get you to spend money for meals out. Those savvy enough to plan ahead can think about facing the New Year and a new trend in restaurants: The menu gambit. It is no shock that New Yorkers are eating out less frequently and spending less money when they do. In order to tweak this trend, restaurants have taken all sorts of steps, from re-pricing items to offering specials and tinkering with their service. In order to part you from your hard-earned dollars, restaurants have pulled out the big guns to entice you to order more, differently, and most important, more expensively. The most recent approach is to target the menu itself. Take New York’s Tabla, for instance, one of restaurateur-extraordinaire Danny Meyer’s places. As reported in a recent "New York Times" article, you can see the thinking at work. No dollar signs appear next the prices, for example; you won't see a zero as part of a price; and the name of the chef’s mother is heavily invoked beside a dish. Diners will also notice such tricks at New York restaurants as using more descriptive language for higher-priced items or setting them off somehow. Using brand names (made with Aunt Mollie’s flour!) and nostalgic names (made with Aunt Mollie’s chocolate!) are also ploys. (The trend also applies to national chains and restaurants in other cities as well.) So Merry Christmas--and may your future eating out be merry, bright--and aware of the tug on your wallet strings.