When you work in the pricing industry – it comes as a given that you understand that pricing is more than just setting menu prices and seeing the profits roll in! A strategic pricing approach will need to be centrally involved with various functions such as marketing, sales and customer service -to truly understand the value that a product or service can provide to a customer – and then implement value based pricing.


In today’s blog – we are taking a look at the weird and wonderful world of restaurant menu prices and some of the tricks that are used to “nudge” you into making a decision – that may benefit the restaurant. We previously covered the work of Robert Cialdini and Influence in our blog on psychological framing.


Our intention is not to provide a comprehensive lost of restaurant menu prices and approaches but to use it as an easy to understand example – of what can be done with smart pricing and understanding of customer value drivers.


What we can learn from the techniques of restaurant menu prices!

As in all industries – there is an entire spectrum of practises – from amateurs to experts and the restaurant industry is no different. From billion dollar chains to small mom and pop stores – the range of menu prices and approaches is almost as broad as people’s budgets!





The leading restaurant chains will make pricing a core component of their strategy before they draw up a menu – and then can use lots of techniques and psychology to nudge people into making the desired choices.



An interesting recent article on the BBC highlights this:


“For a large chain that might have a million people a day coming into their restaurants around the world, it can take up to 18 months to put out a menu as we test everything on it three times,” says Gregg Rapp, a menu engineer based in Palm Springs, California, who has worked on menus for small neighbourhood cafes and multinational giants during his 34-year-long career. “


Some of the key things to learn from this expertise include:


Understanding the customers value drivers – A meal out is not just about filling your belly; it covers many aspects from luxury, a treat, showing off to friends or a date etc.


Understanding why people are in the restaurant can let smart restaurant owners use approaches such as:


– Having heavier menus – amazingly – this can convey the feeling that the restaurant is expensive.


– Drinkers like wine menus with hard to read script!


Using nudges – to drive people to more profitable choices


– Fancy words can nudge people to choose a more expensive dish –   a “grass-fed Aberdeen Angus fillet with thick-cut rosemary fries” sounds much more appetising than a simple “steak and chips”, does it not?


– Writing longer descriptions can help justify higher cost items.


– A classic men prices approach is to drop the dollar or Pound / Euro sign. We all know the technique of charging 5.99 – but in menu prices you will often see it written simply as 6. “The dollar sign is a pain point that reminds the diner that they are spending money,” says Allen. “By just using the figure, or even better, writing it out in words, it can reduce that pain.”


– Ordering the dishes by price can have large impacts. By putting a high priced dish first – can make cheaper dishes seem better value.


Visual appeal can have a very large impact also.




As in nearly all progressive industries – menu prices are evolving, based on big data and behavioural science to maximise profits and provide enhanced value to clients.


What can you learn here for your industry?