The Psychology of Pasta Positioning

The Washington Post has an excellent piece today on how restaurateurs and chefs are trimming their costs by trimming their portions, using smaller plates and rearranging their menus in such subtle ways that you, the consumer, will not notice:

Mentzer has studies that track where the eye travels when it reads a menu, and part of his presentation to clients is a menu divided into sections: the starlets (top right, the place for items that net the most money), the plow horses (top left, ideal for dishes that are higher than average in popularity and lower than average contributors to the bottom line), the dogs (bottom left, lower than average popularity, lower than average profits) and so on. “The eye goes first to the starlets and it doesn’t like to spend a lot of time with the dogs,” he says. “I told a guy recently to move his pastas — which are really high-margin — from the dogs to the all-stars, and there was a 30 percent jump in sales.”

We’ve always been fascinated with the psychology of menu arrangement (and irritated by the failure of some restaurateurs to spellcheck, though not as irritated as these folks over at eGullet). Check out the menu arrangement the next time you’re at your favorite restaurant. If prices are getting you down, don’t forget to check out our handy recession specials guide.

Objects on Your Plate May Be Smaller Than They Appear [WashPost]