Chicago Sun-Times
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The psychology of menus

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balthazar_menu.jpg
Via New York magazine, there's a whole lot more going on on your restaurant menu than a mere listing of the kitchen's offerings. That $70 dinner plate doesn't seem so unreasonable when it's next to the $115.00 (note the unnecessary ".00") dish, now does it? The info comes from William Poundstone's new book, "The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It)."

According to Poundstone, menus are comprised of stars, puzzles and plowhorses. "A star is a popular, high-profit item--in other words, an item for which customers are willing to pay a good deal more than it costs to make. A puzzle is high-profit but unpopular; a plowhorse is the opposite, popular yet unprofitable. Consultants try to turn puzzles into stars, nudge customers away from plowhorses, and convince everyone that the prices on the menu are more reasonable than they look."

If you look carefully at your menu, you can safely negotiate the minefields. And who knew that the "Specials of the Day" area were actually favorites of a restaurant's regulars, as well as the spot where you could find some good deals? I didn't.

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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This page contains a single entry by James Scalzitti published on December 14, 2009 11:15 AM.

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