Not everyone knows it, but restaurant menus play a much greater role than anyone would have thought. Restaurant menus are not just price lists, but marketing tools as well, used to promote decisions on customers. These menus from restaurants tell us consumers what to think.

Small changes to items in the menu, the order they’re presented, and the typeface used have a major impact on the choices made by the diners. There’s a whole industry called menu engineering, which is committed to designing restaurant menus that send messages to customers, the ones that encourage them to spend more or ask for a second serving.

The Weight Sets In

Maybe the first thing that the consumer notices about restaurant menus is its weight when the waiter brings it in. Heavier menus mean that consumers are in a more upscale location where they can expect high priced food and service levels.

A special font used to write in the items on the menu expresses another message. For example, an italic typeface suggests higher price value. But using complex, hard-to-read fonts might have another effect too. It may even alter the food experience.

A survey of Swiss researchers found that drinkers favored wine with elaborate fonts instead of those with a simplified typeface. Customers often equate rounder fonts with sweet tastes, whereas angular fonts appear to suggest salty, bitter, or sour tastes.

Descriptions in the Menu

The food industry commonly uses this form of descriptive language. The use of long-winded and often sensual dietary descriptions to communicate the importance of products is a common strategy. It’s because it works.

The terms that are used to describe the food can do more than attract people to them. They can water a person’s mouth, at the very least. Research carried out at a university in Germany found out that restaurants could improve the tastiness of food by cleverly marking dishes that imitate mouth movements while dining. Words that move the tongue front and back seems to be more effective.

The tendency seems to work even when speaking softly, perhaps it is because our brain also stimulates muscle movements when reading. The authors suggest that this effect works with the saliva glands. Each letter or word in the description costs as well. Look out for menus with adjectives used in the description. Restaurants make wordy dish summaries for one practical reason. They could make food look great and sound expensive.

Choice of Colors

But it’s not just the words on the menu that you send signals. The colors used on the menu also have an impact. Many colors such as green are often used to indicate that food is healthy and clean. Orange is thought to increase hunger. Red suggests a sense of urgency and may draw attention to the dishes that the chef wants people to buy the most, maybe because they have the highest profit margin.

These is how a Fullerton restaurant may play the menu game. At the end of the day, it’s your choice that matters. If you simply look past these common menu strategies, then maybe you’ll find that food that will satisfy your cravings.