Restaurant menu

How you misread the restaurant menu

It’s something you’ve done hundreds, if not thousands of times: sit down in a restaurant, look at the menu to decide what you want to eat, and place your order. But hidden inside each menu are subtle clues about what you should order – and what you shouldn’t – as well as ways to save money and get your money’s worth.

How you misread the restaurant menu (slideshow)

Designing a restaurant menu is nothing less than an art form. Seriously, there are entire businesses based on advising restaurants on how to properly lay out their menus to maximize profits, highlighting certain items over others. For example, our eyes tend to be drawn to items enclosed in boxes, so they will put boxes around items with the highest profit potential, treating them as “featured items.” Plus, a $20 shrimp cocktail might seem expensive when bundled with $12 salads, but not next to a $75 shellfish platter.

However, the rules for writing menus are changing and in many restaurants the traditional methods of dividing offerings into entrees, entrees and sides have disappeared, replaced by small plates and large plates or even a simple list, leaving it up to the dinner to determine (presumably based on price) which offerings are starters and which are main courses. Still, if you know what to look for, it’s possible to not only order the highest quality dish on the menu, but also stay within your budget.

Here are 11 ways you’re misreading the restaurant menu, plus handy tips and tricks to make sure that when it comes time to place your order, you’re not the one still trying to make up your mind while everyone ( including your server) is giving you dirty looks. And better yet, to ensure that when your food arrives, everyone will be jealous that you picked the right thing.

Check the menu online first

We’ve all been there: you spend so much time chatting with your table mates that when it’s time to order, you’ve barely had a chance to browse the menu. Spend some time watching it at home before you even leave for the restaurant; this way you will be well prepared.

Plan your budget in advance

Online research helps with this. Know exactly how much money you plan to spend before you even leave home. This way you can ignore menu items that are out of your price range and not be surprised when the bill comes.

Click here for 9 more ways to misread the menu.

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