We all know how restaurant design can influence diners ’ eating habits.

Now research  reported in  New Scientist* has uncovered a wealth of information on how much factors such as lighting, windows and the size and shape of a wine glass can affect how much a customer eats and drinks.


From visiting 27 restaurants across the USA, mapping the layout of each one and tracking what each customer ordered, the following surprising facts emerged.

  • Customers who sat by a window or in a well lit part of the restaurant ordered healthier food than those sitting in a dark table or booth.
  • A table of four sitting within two tables of the bar drank an average of three more beers or alcoholic drinks with a mixer than those sitting just one table further away.
  • The closer a table was to a tv screen, the more fried food a person bought.
  • People sitting at high top bar tables ordered more salads and fewer desserts.

Alcohol influences on diners

It wasn’t just eating that was influenced by environmental factors.

The New Scientist brought 85 wine drinkers into their lab, gave them different sized glasses and told them to either sit or stand.

Their observation showed:

  • People pour 12% less wine into taller glasses than into wider glasses that hold the same amount.
  • Looking down at a glass makes it appear more full than looking at it from roughly the same level as the liquid. As a result, the wine drinkers poured 12% less into a glass that was sitting in a table compared to one they were holding.
  • Because red wine is easier to see than white wine, the drinkers poured 9% less red wine into whatever glass they were holding.

It’s not just wine these observations apply to. A separate study of 86 bartenders in Philadelphia, who were asked to pour the amount of alcohol they would use to make a gin and tonic, a whisky on the rocks, a rum and coke and a vodka tonic. Whether they had worked as bartenders for 32 years or 32 minutes, they poured on average 32% more alcohol into short, wide tumblers than into high glasses of the same volume.


So what can be learned from this study? Should all restaurateurs dim the lights, put a bar on every wall and only serve alcohol in high glasses?

Of course not. Particularly when it comes to restaurant decor where a huge range of factors must be considered.

But it’s a fascinating insight into how even if a customer arrives at the restaurant with the best of intentions, a dark corner booth or an wide inviting glass may tempt them into thinking otherwise.

* Research by Brian Wansink of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

They’re both north of the border, both have had tussles with their bigger southern neighbour and have both made the news an awful lot in the last year.

But is there really going to be a North Korean restaurant in Scotland?

Kim Jonh Un. A man who looks like he likes a good meal.

Kim Jonh Un. A man who looks like he likes a good meal.

According to newspaper reports this week, infamous North Korean leader (dictator) Kim Jong Un is thinking of opening a restaurant in Scotland.

“The Scottish independence referendum catapulted Scotland into the North Korean elite’s thoughts,” Michael Madden, editor of the North Korea Leadership Watch blog, told the Edinburgh Evening News.

This story isn’t as initially crazy as it first sounds. The country’s holding company Haedongwha already owns a restaurant in Amsterdam and North Koreans are known to be big fans of whisky.

In fact the country was one of the only few in the world to openly voice their support of Scottish independence.

“Despite voting ‘No’ they’d consider left-leaning Scotland to be more suitable to deal with than England,” Madden said. “Plus, North Koreans love whisky. Tourists in North Korea are told to tip people in Scotch instead of the currency.”

Scotland’s biggest cities Glasgow and Edinburgh already host several Korean restaurants.

But whether they would welcome a take on the cuisine from their rather more rambunctious neighbour remains to be seen.

Restaurant menu pricing can be something of a minefield.

There’s food and staff costs to consider, all while manoeuvring the tricky balancing act of attracting customers vs satisfying the bottom line.


Tried and tested pricing strategies such as supplements on dishes and lower priced lunch and pre theatre menus are always available.

But when we stumbled across this article on Help Scout, with excellent pricing strategy ideas, it got us thinking how these could be applied to restaurants.

Let’s take a look.

Similarity can cost you sales

According to research from Yale, if two similar items are priced the same, consumers are much less likely to buy one than if their prices are even slightly different.

In one experiment where researchers had users choose to buy (or pass and keep the money) two different packs of gum, only 46 percent made a purchase when both packs were priced at 63 cents.

Conversely, when the packs of gum were differently priced—at 62 cents and 64 cents—more than 77 percent of consumers chose to buy a pack.

This is worth keeping in mind when planning your restaurant menu.

Maybe you could experiment with different priced menus, such as a la carte presented alongside pre theatre and lunch.

Or try different cuts of steak at different prices.

Utilise price anchoring

And how to present these different priced options? Right beside each other!

Three courses for a fixed price point seems like a huge bargain when it is placed beside the more expensive a la carte menu.

In a pricing study from Harvard Business School, which evaluated the effects of price anchoring, researchers asked subjects to estimate the worth of a sample home. Pamphlets provided to the subjects included information about surrounding houses; some had normal prices and others had artificially inflated prices.

Both a group of undergraduate students and a selection of real estate experts were swayed by the pamphlets with the higher prices. Anchoring even worked on the professionals and had an influence on what estimate they gave the house!

By placing premium products and services near standard options you can create a clear sense of value for potential customers, who will then view your less expensive options as a bargain in comparison.

…But make sure to test different levels of pricing

In the book Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value, author William Poundstone examined the purchasing patterns of consumers on a selection of beer. In the first test, there were only two options available: a regular option at $1.80 and a premium option at $2.50.

Four out of five people chose the more popular premium option. But could adding a third item and price point increase revenue by targeting those looking for a cheaper option? The researchers tested this by adding a $1.60 beer to the menu.

In the second test no one bought the $1.60 beer, four out of five people bought the $1.80 and one of out five bought the $2.50 beer. In the third test, the researchers took away the $1.60 and added a $.340 instead.

This proved to be the most profitable result. 85% of customers bought the $2.50 beer, 10% bought the $3.40 beer and 5% bought the $1.80 beer.

These examples clearly show important it is to test out different brackets of pricing. This is especially true if you believe you may be undercharging. Some customers are always going to want the most expensive option, so adding a super-premium price will give them that option and will make your other prices look better by comparison.

End prices with the number 9

An old classic. But does ending prices with the number 9 really cause people to buy more?

According to the journal Quantitative Marketing and Economics, the answer is a resounding yes.

Prices ending in 9 were so effective they were able to outsell even lower prices for the exact same product.

In comparing the prices $35 versus $39 for women’s clothing, the study found that the prices ending in 9 were able to outperform the lower prices on average by over 24 percent.


As we stated at the beginning of this article, restaurant menu pricing can be an overwhelming task.

If one thing can be taken from Help Scout’s article is that careful consideration combined with constant revaluation can reap dividends for restaurant profits.

Continue to test different price points and different methods to ensure your profit margins are healthy while making sure customers leave your restaurant smiling.

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