Mental Anchoring, Do It And Get Higher Check Averages

A number of years ago I came across some research done by American Demographics. And at first blush it seemed more amusing than anything. According to the research, the one time people are most likely to spend the most money at a restaurant is the day they buy their home. The thinking is: “I’m already $300,000.00 in debt. What’s another hundred bucks?” So they order a more expensive food item to celebrate.

All by itself, that bit of information may not seem all that impressive. Plus, it’s not very often that people buy homes even in good times, not to mention our current economy. However, when you couple that bit of information with the fact, and it is a fact, that the hardest item to sell on any menu is the most expensive item ... then it becomes valuable. So if the steak and lobster is your highest-priced item, it sells less than many of the other items on the menu. And in many cases, it sells dead last.

Here’s the rub, though. It’s probably the single item in your restaurant that offers the best plate contribution. Plate contribution being the total dollars a given item offers the bank. Many restaurant operators get hung up on food cost percentages, and while that’s somewhat important, in the big picture, what really matters is increasing your revenue per available plate sold.

Now here’s how this can help you: just by offering an arbitrary item on your menu that is more expensive than the currently most expensive item, you will get a substantial lift in sales of the most expensive item on your menu. So if you just take the most expensive item and double the order for twice the money, the single order will suddenly start to sell. And the cool thing for you is the most expensive item on your menu is, in all likelihood, your best potential to increase your profit potential.

Victoria house didn’t embrace the idea either, so I used the center-cut pork T-bone and BBQ ribs to help mental anchor. Victoria House had two sizes of ribs to begin with, and they already offered single and double pork chops, so by adding a rack and a half of ribs for 31.99, and triple pork chops for 27.99, we were able to take some of the down-pressure off the higher price points.

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Tags: developement, marketing, matrix, menu, pricing, restaurant


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Comment by Mark on January 20, 2010 at 8:27am
Thanks Paul - it does work on its own, but you're exactly right, it also helps to have the servers promote it, too.

Comment by Paul Paz on January 20, 2010 at 4:20am
Interesting strategy.
This would require educating the staff on this strategy... unless of course it works all by itself. Restaurant FOH marketing and sales training is notably absent in most restaurants other than making sure the SOP steps of service include the banal ivitations to alcoholic beverages, appetizers, and desserts.
Again, interesting strategy.




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