Tricks of the Restaurant Trade Debunked

Don’t you just love when you see an article on the Internet about restaurants and it’s clear that it was written by someone who has no clue about what it’s like to actually work in one? Such is the case with a story over at Money Talks News. It’s called “Tricks of the Trade: Restaurants” and was written by a woman named Amanda Geronikos who probably worked as a hostess at Red Lobster for four weeks when she was 17 and now she thinks she is an expert on the food and beverage industry. This is not the first time she has been caught spouting useless tips. Several months ago she wrote an article called “7 Ways to Radically Reduce Your Restaurant Checks” which I responded to in a very mature blog post called “How To Pinch a Penny/I’m a Cheap Ho.” Once again, I am forced to educate Ms. Geronikos and point out how fucking obvious her little “tricks of the trade” are to anyone who has half a brain in their head. It’s called the restaurant “business” for a reason. They are there to make money just like any other business.

1. Salty snacks at the bar

Those complimentary pretzels and peanuts weren’t set in front of you as a kind gesture – they’re there so you’ll order more drinks. Salty snacks make you thirsty. End of story.

No shit. I think everyone knows this and doesn’t care. I’d be more concerned about how many fecal mattered fingers went into that bowl of pretzels than how thirsty they’re making me.

2. Menu design

Our eyes have a natural tendency to look at the right side of the menu first, so restaurants usually list their most expensive dishes in that area. Some restaurants put their most expensive items at the top of the menu, so other items look more reasonably priced.

This is called subliminal advertising and is not inherent to the restaurant industry. Why do you think that car at the dealership is listed at $24,999? Because it sounds better than $25,000, that’s why. This is not a trick of the restaurant trade.

 3. Lack of dollar signs

Have you noticed more restaurants listing prices without dollar signs? That’s no coincidence. In a Cornell study guests given a menu with only numbers and no dollar signs spent significantly more than those who received a menu with either prices showing a dollar sign or prices written out in words.

Really? In another Cornell study, it was proven that some people are paid to write really stupid articles about restaurants while other people write way better ones for free.

4. Flowery descriptions

Which sounds better: Classic Burger or Tavern-Style Burger with Frizzled Onions and Smoky Barbecue Sauce? According to a six-week field experiment by Cornell, menus that had descriptive or creative food descriptions, rather than items with simple names, increased sales by 27 percent.

I think this is common in plenty of places other than just restaurants. Which one sounds better: “This article was written by Amanda Geronikos” or “This article was written by a clueless tavern-style writer with frizzy hair and smokey barbecue breath?

5. Extremely friendly servers

I’ve personally fallen victim to this, and you probably have too. While dining at a restaurant in Chicago, I met the world’s friendliest server and gave him an exceptionally generous tip (he made it a point to thank me for my kindness). According to a study by Cornell, my behavior was common – customers leave higher tips when their servers personally introduce themselves, crouch beside the table, or ask about your day.

Are you serious? How is this a trick? We are taught form from childhood that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. In other words, everyone is nicer to someone when they want something from that person. How is this any different from when the customer is sickeningly sweet to us and then they ask for a free dessert because it’s their birthday? Of course servers are nice to you. We’re not stupid. How much of a tip will we get if we turn off our filter and just say and act how we really feel? Once again. At least your server made a point to thank you for your kindness. Isn’t that what he should do? I don’t see how this is a trick of the restaurant trade when it happens all over the place.

6. The upsell

The servers who grip your wallet with their charisma also pull you in with the classic upsell, and they’re very good at it. That same Chicago server also convinced me that his restaurant had some of the best burgers in the city and persuaded me to buy a premium beer that would pair well with the burger.

That’s your fault, dummy. Upselling is how any business makes money.  Ever bought an appliance and they try to sell you that extra added warranty for an extra hundred bucks? Or how about the last time you bought a cell phone? I bet they tried to convince you that you needed to get a text message bundle, didn’t they? It’s called making money for the business. If you ask for vodka, I’m gonna ask if you’d rather have Kettel One or Grey Goose. It’s up to you to say that you want McCormick. 

7. Music

Classical music makes you spend. Mentioned in a Daily Mail article, University of Leicester researchers found that classical music, associated with affluence, encouraged spending at restaurants, while a lack of music caused diners to spend drastically less.

I can’t speak about this because in my restaurant the music that plays is decided by the people who are working. Therefore, every Thursday night at my job, customers get to listen to The Smiths station that I created on Pandora. Classical music making people spend more money on food does make sense now that I think about it because the last time I was at the symphony, I saw people throwing money at the hot dog vendors and eating cotton candy like there was no tomorrow. 

8. Package deals

All-you-can-eat specials and buffets appeal to diners looking for a good value. While there may be a discount, restaurants pull out the tricks to get you to eat less. You’ve probably noticed that buffet lines often start with an assortment of low-cost breads and salads to fill you up before you even get to the meat. You might also find  uncomfortable chairs that discourage sitting for an extended period of time.

Caveat emptor, lady, caveat emptor. Anyone who eats at a buffet knows that you skip the bread and go right to the prime rib. That is rule #1 for any seasoned all-you-can-eater. If you’re too stupid to know that you’re going to get filled up on rolls even though you’re paying $24.99 (not $25.00), that’s your own fault. And I seriously doubt that any restaurant purposely looks for uncomfortable chairs just so people are less likely to stay for a long time. But That maybe the best idea I have ever heard of.

 9. Questionable specials

Specials aren’t always so “special.” In fact, they often include leftover ingredients or food that is set to expire soon. And while there are deals to be had, sometimes specials can cost just
as much as a regular priced meal.

No one expects the special to be cheaper. It’s just something that isn’t normally on the menu. How about you just ask how much it costs before ordering it so you don’t feel like you were taken advantage of? And yes, maybe they are trying to get rid of something in the kitchen so they make it a special. Sorta like when you go to the grocery store and see the chicken breast is on sale but you notice that the expiration date is in two days. Again, not a restaurant trick of the trade, just reality.

10. Forced waiting

Restaurant staff members make you wait so they can divert your attention to the lounge, which is ironically never crowded. Some restaurants bill you for your lounge items separately from your meal, forcing you to tip twice.

Can we say generalization? This does not happen in every restaurant, Amanda. And if they bill you separately, what is the big deal about tipping twice? If you tip 20% on each bill, what difference does it make? 

11. Soups and salads trick

Many people often order a soup and salad under the assumption these items are cheaper (and healthier). But they’re not always a good deal. Salad bar items are often marked up more than 350 percent.

Of course restaurants mark up food costs. It’s called “making money.” You think the cost of food in a restaurant should be the same as it costs at the grocery store? Once again, this is not a restaurant thing. You can buy a head of lettuce at the store for pretty cheap or you can pay more for the bag of pre-washed salad or you can go to a restaurant and pay even more for that salad and have it washed, prepared, placed on the plate and brought to you. It all depends on what you want to spend your money on.

I hope you have enjoyed this response to the original article. I would encourage you to go to the site and leave a comment to the writer and let her know that her ideas are unoriginal, over-generalized, baseless and lame. Also, please ask her to keep on writing because every time she publishes something, I know I will have fun ripping it apart.

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22 thoughts on “Tricks of the Restaurant Trade Debunked

  1. blue

    I want her job. I can get paid to sit on my couch and watch tv then quickly pull some bullshit out of my ass in 5 minutes to send to my boss and get paid for it. I'd totally take on florists or shoe salesmen.

  2. Rogue Wino

    I love when people who are clearly hostile to the idea of restaurants making money write these articles. p.s. Is it weird if, on a busy night, while Frank Sinatra or something is blaring, I'll find myself humming "Please let me get what I want"?

  3. maxi

    The restaurant I used to work out pruposely bought hard wooden chairs when they redesigned the restaurant. Yeah it looked all modern and chic but they were uncomfortable as hell! The management wouldn't admit to purposely buying uncomfy chairs but…… it was insinuated!

  4. Kyle

    She is a fucking idiot. She seems to be confusing a special at a sit down restaurant with a lunch special at like, a Chinese take out joint. There's a difference between "this is special, it's not on the regular menu!" and "it's between noon and three pm. If you buy this now, you also get a soda and an order of pot stickers."

  5. Anonymous

    I am frightened that someone who writes for a Website called 'Money Talks' can't do simple math. Nor can the editor, obviously. Sure, I know working out percentages can get a little tricky, but that is what the calculator app on your phone is for. Also, if my local played The Smiths I would eat there every day.

  6. kileyjae

    1. Everyone knows the salty snacks are there to encourage more drinking. (Altho, I havent been to any bar lately that does this anymore). 2. And…the grocery store puts the eggs & milk at the back of the store so you have to walk thru the store..and hopefully pick up other stuff along the way. Pharmacies are at the back of the store for the same reason. Same difference. 3. "If you have to ask the price…you cant afford it." 4. I want the description (flowery or not) on the menu! Maybe thats weird? 5. Isnt a waiter suppose to introduce themselves and be friendly? Or, are they suppose to just bark: what do you want? (Loved your reply BW!) 6. Every business I go in tries to upsell me. BFD. Either politely say No, thank you..or, Yes, thank you! 7. Unless its too loud to even talk, I dont care what music is playing. (I heard some study said playing classical music in a store make one shop longer too…s does playing Xmas music encourages more gift buying). 8&9…loved your reply. 10. Or you can wait outside if its nice out…or, just order a Coke while in the lounge…or not go when you know its a 45 min wait….11. When I eat out, of course I know there is a huge mark up on some items. Just as I will pay a $1 dollar more for a gallon a milk at 7-11 than driving another mile and go to WalMart…I am paying for convenience. Same as at a restaurant vs eating at home. I am not even in the industry and I know all this! Anyone who took Economics in High School knows everything this 'lady' wrote about. After I read the article, I felt very talked down too. There was NO surprise inthat article to anyone who had any common sense!

  7. Fool Critic

    Commented on article, under "Whine Lovers". Seriously though, this lady seems pathologically paranoid about restaurants being out to get her, and that's sad. A server trying to upsell (a requirement of their freaking job) is not holding a gun at your head. You are not a "victim". Lounges in restaurants are not controlled by some Man Behind A Curtain who makes sure they are "ironically never crowded". Flowery descriptions on menus are not there to distract you while some street urchin sneaks under your table and steals your bag. Classical music does not make dollar notes dance out of your purse in a trance. We don't swap normal chairs for "uncomfortable" ones when there is a buffet going on. Get a fucking grip.

  8. euphoric_mania

    There is no way this stupid cunt has ever actually worked in a real restaurant. She probably served wings at a quick service place with a tv for three months and claims to everyone that she used to bartend at a sports lounge.

  9. Trippmadam

    I like numbers 2 and 3. 2. I think most people look at a menu and decide, what they would like to eat. Then most people have a look at the price, and if they cannot afford what they would like to have, choose something cheaper. They should be able to do that even if it is on the right side of the menu.3. Well, I am just Old European, but if I went to a restaurant in the U.S., I would expect the prices to be in the local currency, i.e. dollars and not yen. 3.

  10. Anonymous

    "customers leave higher tips when their servers personally introduce themselves, crouch beside the table"Honest to goodness, if a server "crouched down" while taking my order I would not only not leave a tip, I may make a gesture and accidentally lose track of where I placed my beverage.

  11. Anonymous

    THE SMITHS! I already knew I loved you, but that pushed me right over the edge into obsessive adoration. Where are you working so I can come in on Thursday Nights with my husband.Ann

  12. Chris

    I absolutely detest when servers crouch down to the table. Urg! I hate it so much. Bothers me to no end. Is there anything I could say or do to avoid this?

  13. The Virginia Beach Blogger

    @Chris..To avoid the stupid server kneeling by the table, AVOID OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE…that stupid move originated with them…they also encourage servers to actually sit at the table with a new outback customer and explain the menu to them


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