A short piece in Time profiling Gregg Rapp: a “menu engineer” who optimises restaurant menus to maximise profits.

The first step is the design. Rapp recommends that menus be laid out in neat columns with unfussy fonts. The way prices are listed is very important. “This is the No. 1 thing that most restaurants get wrong,” he explains. “If all the prices are aligned on the right, then I can look down the list and order the cheapest thing.” It’s better to have the digits and dollar signs discreetly tagged on at the end of each food description. That way, the customer’s appetite for honey-glazed pork will be whetted before he sees its cost.

On a similar theme, another article looks at how using obscure terminology and unusual or hard-to-read typefaces can influence diners.

All this talk of influence, food and psychology reminds me of the little-known second-cheapest wine syndrome. The following from a Harvard Law Record article:

Restaurant owners will often price the wine they buy cheapest at wholesale as the second-cheapest wine on the menu. Why? Because people generally don’t order the cheapest wine and thus often turn to the second cheapest. Price that one higher, and you get a bigger marginal profit. Presto—restauranteur as microeconomist!