Ways Restaurants Try To Squeeze More Money Out Of You

When you sit down at a restaurant, you’re often engaging in a tug-of-war with the establishment to get you to fork over more money than you originally planned. Owners employ clever little tricks to get you to up the amount of your final check.

PlantingMoneySeeds identifies a few ways restaurants try to pull fast ones on you. Wait staff are trained to aim for the upsell, coaxing you into appetizers, drinks and desserts. Menus are also designed to direct your eyes to the more expensive items, sometimes marked with “special” or “new.”

Even a detail as seemingly inconsequential as straw size can be geared to suck you dry. Alcoholic drinks are sometimes served with wider straws to get you to slurp down your expensive drinks quicker. Refillable soft drinks, meanwhile, can sport smaller straws that make you take longer to finish each glass. That’s also a reason servers will often bring you new ice-filled cups of soda rather than refilling your glass with a pitcher.

4 Tricks Restaurants Use to Make More Money [PlantingMoneySeeds]


Edit Your Comment

  1. HowardRoarksTSquare says:

    The water with a slice of lemon and bread are free, right?

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      Water with lemon is called “lemonade”.

      • Buckus says:

        No, it’s called water with lemon. To make it lemonady, it would have to have much more lemons and sugar.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          In France, water with lemon is called limonade, and lemonade is called citronade.

          Just because it’s called something a certain way in your language doesn’t mean the majority of the world doesn’t say something different.

        • BackInBlack says:

          I had a coworker who did that at lunch at restaurants. She’d order water with lemon and a plate of extra lemon wedges, then squeeze it and add sweetener. Naturally we gave her grief about it, and asked if the next step was “bum tomato soup” made from a free cup of hot water and ketchup!

      • eezy-peezy says:

        In Florida it is called “Canadian Lemonade”. Some restaurants are starting to charge the cheapos who make it.

    • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

      When I’d loiter at a diner a friend of mine worked at, I’d have her bring me water, with a side of lemon, lime, and some cherries. I’d mash them into my water, along with some sugar packets.

    • kokathy says:

      at the diner i used to work at, they would want us to reuse the bread that we would give to patrons. we were suppossed to take them off the table and toss them back into the bread bin so someone else could give them to new patrons.

      he wait staff with a conscious used to find ways to demolish the rolls.

      oh and those nice warm rolls weren’t because they were toasted in the oven or even better that they were fresh out of the oven. we would just nuke them in the microwave a few minutes.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        That’s a HUGE health code violation. We had to throw rolls away if they came back untouched. Because you can never tell for sure if they’re actually untouched. I can see a lot of kids licking the roll and then leaving it. Ewww.

        • BackInBlack says:

          A Mexican place in my town got busted by Health Code Inspectors for “recycling” their chips and salsa. You have to wonder just how much of this goes on. In a way, I don’t want to even know, much like I don’t want to see those features of blacklight inspections of motel rooms where they find traces of feces and semen on everything in the room including the ceiling, walls, bedspread, phone, and TV remote.

      • jiubreyn says:

        Wow! I hope that isn’t some place I’ve eaten at before. That’s definitely a health code violation. I used to work in several restaurants when I was younger and we always had to throw away any leftover from a table that has finished their meal — unless they wanted a to-go box that is.

      • zibby says:

        Hell, I used to work at a place where they would rinse unused lettuce from the salads.

        • Flik says:

          I spent four years in high school working in consessions at the Seattle Center — we’d unwrap unsold hot dogs, wash the bits of stuck bun off, then re-freeze the dog and bun, to be sold the next night. Unsold popcorn was also bagged & tagged for the next day.

          Moral of the story? NEVER buy stadium food until the end of the first quarter.

    • SilentAgenger says:

      You’d think, right? I got nailed with a sneaky bread charge once. We went to an Italian place that had two versions of garlic bread: the free kind, and a “deluxe” version for which you pay extra. This was my first visit to the place, so I wasn’t familiar with the menu and didn’t catch on to the two-kinds-of-garlic-bread thing. The waiters asks “would you like for me to bring out some garlic bread for your table” (without explaining there are two options), and I said “sure” (thinking it was the standard free kind). He brings out the deluxe version, and I wasn’t aware of the difference until the bill came. I should have known better…the deluxe version was too awesome to be free. Normally I would have protested, but again that bread was so awesome that I figured it was worth it…and I guess the waiter’s scheme worked because I order the deluxe bread every time I go back there.

  2. consumed says:

    I see past all these tricks and only order ice water when I go to restaurants. Appetizers are the biggest scam, with some Mexican restaurants charging $7.99 for a little bowl of queso that has some pico and guacamole blended in. Profit genius on their behalf!

    • Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

      Some appetizers actually make good entrees.

    • JennQPublic says:

      Umm, yea, because restaurants are such guaranteed profit generators…

      I sometimes get appetizers, not because I was ‘tricked’ into them, but because they sound good and I’m looking to prolong the meal and enjoy the experience. If all I cared about was getting food into me, I could do that at Taco Bell.

      I had a cheesegasm over the cold jalapeño queso dip at the Rutherford Grill last weekend, and believe me, it was worth every penny.

    • HowardRoarksTSquare says:

      You sound like such a joy to go out to dinner with

    • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

      I don’t think I’ve ever seen that trick at a Mexican-owned Mexican restaurant. Regional thing?

    • some.nerd says:


    • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

      Why not just take your own food in? That’ll show ’em!

      • Nunov Yerbizness says:

        Why don’t you tell us what problem you have with people ordering what they want in restaurants, exactly what they want, and no more than they want or need?

        They’re restaurants. Typically, they have menus, which would imply to most of us that their customers are allowed to choose what they want to eat, and what they don’t want to eat, to suit their tastes, dietary needs, and budgets.

        If you’re trying to eat relatively healthily, for example, water is probably the best drink you can order. Appetizers are notoriously high in fat and calories.

        As long as a customer isn’t making a big deal or a public scene about choosing not to order things they believe are overpriced, WTF business is it of yours?

    • Charmander says:

      Trick is an odd word to use for a waiter asking you if you want an appetizer or a beverage. Order what you want and what you can afford……you do have a menu in front of you and can read, right?

    • Cream Of Meat says:

      Cheese sauce with chopped tomatoes peppers and onions and guacamole all mixed together? Sounds pretty rank :(

  3. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    I have heard it asserted more than once that the ice actually costs the restaurant more than the soda – granted the electricity bill to continuously freeze water into ice. Such that some savvy managers actually reduce the amount of ice they give out in soft drinks, giving the customer more actual drink.


    • The Porkchop Express says:

      I probably would, most of the drinks come out of a bag in a box and can’t really be expensive.

      • dulcinea47 says:

        I read somewhere it costs literally about two cents for the soda (syrup and carbonated water). What does a refillable soda cost in a sit-down restaurant these days, $2? (I don’t drink soda.) Even with the cost of keeping the ice cold they’re making a pretty big profit on that.

        • bhr says:

          Pretty much everything you drink in a restaurant has a nice profit margin, but that $2 soda has probably 50% margin, rather than the 90% that people claim once you factor in things like the actual soda and ice, the CO2 canister, upkeep on the fountains, cleaning the glasses, breakage (trust me, soda glasses are the most broken item in any restaurant).

          • KyBash says:

            It’s been a few decades since I’ve been in the business, but back then, the cost of putting a glass in front of a customer cost at least twice what filled it.

            Also, the water line could run directly into the soda machine, but there had to be an expensive and often-replaced filter on the line going to the tap for drinking water, making the costs about equal.

            • Kate says:

              My ex’s father told us that in his fast food franchise, sodas were something like 11 cents a glass – this was back in the 80’s.

              • GearheadGeek says:

                And since it was a fast-food place, the biggest part of that was the disposable cup.

                • Shappie says:

                  I manage a restaurant and our bev costs average 18 to 19.5% every month…so my charging $2.09 for soda costs me on average $0.40 or so. And remember staff drink whatever they want for free so that gets absorbed in the cost too. Coffee, for instance, is almost exclusively drank by morning staff and opening management…

          • sirwired says:

            Unless this is a restaurant that sells very little soda, the margin is a LOT better than 50%. Even with the cost of broken glasses, maintenance, etc., I cannot imagine that the costs approach $1.00 for soda.

        • Buckus says:

          Sweet Tomatoes has been charging about $3 for soda lately. I was there over the weekend and noticed more than half the diners had a cup of water instead of soda.

          • George4478 says:

            I’m one of those. Lunch and a soda runs about $12. That’s more than I like to spend on a salad, bowl of soup, and a diet coke. I love their salad bar, so I dropped the soda to bring it back under $10.

        • zz9 says:

          The mark up on individual items is huge. But the rent, and wages etc are also huge. A place that might be full on a Friday night may be almost empty much of the week, or a place in a business district may be packed for a couple of hours at lunchtime but deserted in the evenings and weekends.

          They need that profit to pay their bills.That rent, taxes, wages, electricity, insurance etc etc has to be paid 24/7… So many restaurants go out of business within a year or two of opening. If they were profitable they’d still be in business.

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      Intriguing hypothesis… considering that if it’s an Ice-Chest-style ice machine, the interior of the machine warms up by approximately 15 degrees each time the door is opened. So the fewer trips to the ice machine they can make, the less time the refrigeration compressor is running, and the less electricity is used to make ice.


    • KyBash says:

      It depends on how you skew the figures.

      The cost to make X amount of ice for a drink is probably often more than the cost of an equivalent volume of mix.

      However, ice makers don’t work on a demand basis — they keep churning out ice whether it’s used or not, so it’s a fixed cost.

      The only way to actually save on ice is to either get a smaller ice maker (which might leave you ice-less during times of heavy demand) or turn the machine on and off during the day (reducing the quality of the ice, increasing the possibility of contamination, and shortening the life of the machine).

      • sirwired says:

        Errr… no, Icemakers do not work on a continuous basis. When the ice bin is full, they do indeed stop making ice, just like you’d expect.

        • KyBash says:

          Ideally, you should start a shift with the bin 1/4 full, and it should never become more than 1/2 full during the shift.

          If the ice bin gets full more than once a week during a shift, trade it in on a smaller model.

          • Rachacha says:

            i used to work in a banquet hall/restaurant and we had two ice machines. One handled the volume of ice needed during the week and cow smaller banquets (200 people or less) but during the height of the weeding season where we were hosting close to 4000 guests in a weekend we would turn on the second ice maker. Occasionally we would run out to the local convenience store and pick up a couple hundred pounds of ice if the machines were unable to keep up with demand.

    • sirwired says:

      I don’t buy it. Electricity in the US is cheap. You can make a lot of ice out of a kWh’s worth of juice, which costs about ten cents.

    • Cat says:

      This is a job for Mythbusters!

      Personally, I hate the full glass of ice with a splash of cola. In 15 minutes, it’s cold brown water.

    • Nyxalinth says:

      Before I stopped eating fast food, everywhere I went would just CLOG the effing cup with so much ice that I’d have about 8 ounces of drink in a 20 ounce cup. I started asking for no ice, and finally got what I was paying for. I no longer go to them, so I’m not sure if that’s still the practice.

    • samonela says:



      Order your drink sans ice (as most soda fountains dispense drinks already at and acceptably cold level), and a separate cup full of just ice. That way, you get your money’s worth of product (the drink not being displaced by ice) but you still also screw over the restaurant for that profit sucking ice.

      They’ll just LOVE you!

    • RayanneGraff says:

      I believe it. I usually have to ask for extra ice at fast food places or make the drink myself whenever possible. They’ll put like half a scoop of ice in a 32oz drink & 10 minutes later its melted & my drink is watery & warm. I haven’t had the same experiences in restaurants as often, but occasionally I’ll get a drink with 3 melty little cubes floating in it.

  4. tbax929 says:

    Restaurants must not like me very much, since I’m a creature of habit. I have my favorite dishes at the various restaurants a frequent, and I rarely order anything besides those.

    I may have a beer with dinner, but I generally don’t buy wine with a meal. I think restaurants charge way too much for alcohol, so I prefer to do most of my imbibing at home.

    I am a good tipper, though. So servers may like me even if restaurants don’t. I’m decisive and tip well, but I don’t buy the upsells.

    • Jillia says:

      I rarely get wine when I go out. The mark up is insane! Why would I pay $40 for a $20 bottle of wine that I’m not even sure I’m gonna like? There’s a few instances where I want to try the restaurant, so i suck it up, but luckily here in Philly, there is an abundance of BYOBs that we can frequent for a delicious dinner with our own wine.

      • tbax929 says:

        I moved here from Philly about 6 years ago. I don’t remember a lot of BYOB restaurants. Do they charge a corking fee?

        • ChuckECheese says:

          Some do, some don’t. My favorite Thai place charges $0, but a Swedish place I go to charges $5/bottle, which I think is steep. I bet more places charge than don’t though. AZ has liberal BYOB rules for restaurants that don’t have liquor licenses.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      In Phoenix restaurants are squeezing more money out of you by charging high prices for everything. The city has become a nightmarescape of $10 hamburgers, $12 ham sandwiches, $8 platters of hummus and $15 lunch entrees washed down with $3 soft drinks and $8 glasses of house wine. I think high rents and general greed are to blame. If you can find a locally owned place that also owns its own storefront, prices are often significantly lower than elsewhere.

      • tbax929 says:

        I’m in Tucson and have noticed the same thing. With my job, I have a lot of company meals at restaurants. Other than on dates, those are pretty much the only times I eat out at restaurants any more. I’m glad I’ve learned how to cook!

    • dks64 says:

      The reason alcohol is so expensive at restaurants is the liability, cost of the liquor license, and cost to store it. People try to compare prices at the liquor store to prices at the restaurant, but the alcohol isn’t drank at the store, so they don’t have the liability. We have a huge keg room at my restaurant and that is very expensive to keep so cool and maintenance of the pipes/system that go from the room, through tubing on the ceiling, to the bar. Same with wine, there’s a separate wine cellar that has to stay cool and be maintained. Because of this, I typically don’t drink when I go out. It’s not a big deal, alcohol just isn’t a necessity for me.

      • AustinTXProgrammer says:

        Because of Taxes the restaurants pay more for alcohol than consumers in my state. I have found drinking out to be about 3x what it costs to do it at home, which leaves them with a reasonable profit.

        If you don’t drink to get drunk you still aren’t spending that much. Unless you buy 25 year old single malt, but a $50 drink one every 5 years is a lot cheaper than buying a $400 bottle at the liquor store. I ran the numbers and there was nowhere near a 3x markup on it either…

  5. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    It doesn’t bother me if some restaurants want to charge for fancier water as long as it’s disclosed very clearly that such fancier water costs money. Generally, it’s tap for me unless I know the local water supply is gross. Some restaurants give their fancy water for free. One restaurant I went to filters all of its own water because the tap is kind of meh. No charge for that.

  6. blinky says:

    People drink alcohol from straws?

    • Rebecca K-S says:

      Yeah, this. I can’t recall ever having used a straw for booze.

    • redskull says:

      Don’t the frilly froo-froo drinks usually come with a straw?

    • balderdashed says:

      A cocktail straw would be expected in most bars with many alcoholic drinks, and has a number of advantages. Consider: Your waiter or waitress just brought the drink to your table, quite possibly after clearing away some dirty dishes (and maybe, some snot-laced napkins) from another table. If he or she has handled your drink by the rim of the glass, you may prefer to use a straw rather than apply your lips to the rim. Also, some bars don’t wash glasses all that well, and while the alcohol might kill most germs, the rim can still be unsanitary. Beyond that, a straw is also useful for stirring, which can benefit many drinks. I actually ordered some cocktail straws online for my home bar — I wouldn’t be without them.

      • CalicoGal says:

        I agree with you– I always use a straw– but consider this:
        How did that cocktail straw get into your glass?

        Via the bartender’s fingertips, which just handled currency and a bar rag…..


        • Scoobatz says:

          Have you ever seen a waitress carry two glasses at a time by pressing them together with her thumb inside one glass and her fingers inside the other? Disgusting.

    • ChuckECheese says:

      I always drink my manhattans through the little red plastic straw that comes with it.

    • dobgold says:

      I prefer my Belvedere on the rocks with an umbrella.

  7. Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

    If it’s ‘one’ of those meals, I feel like I squeeze myself more than any restaurant could ! (Sure, I’ll the 20 year old Tawny, thanks!)

  8. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    Bringing new soda instead of a pitcher? I don’t think it is the ice issue.

    1) Dispensing soda into pitcher releases the carbonation. Pouring it into a glass releases more. Result, flat soda and unhappy customer.

    2) Waitress walks past table and three people want refills. Either they go back, get a tray, get glasses, refill glasses and return to the table, hopefully remembering whose glass was whose. Or, they look at the ticket and make one round trip with three full glasses without worrying about who was drinking out of which glass.

    • reimero says:

      At one restaurant where I used to work, the soft drink manufacturer actually had enforced standards for dispensing soft drinks. Per the terms of the contract, we were not permitted to refill from pitchers, even on request, and we were “educated” on the “correct” ice-to-soft-drink ratio. We were allowed to omit ice upon request, but pitchers were an absolute no-no.

      • ChuckECheese says:

        Was the company OCD Cola?

      • BackInBlack says:

        Wonder how they’d feel about this one: The menu of a locally-owned and fairly high-priced Italian place advertised the standard Coke or Pepsi products on their website and menu. Imagine our surprise when they made no attempt whatsoever (by at least using a pitcher) to disguise the fact that what they were actually pouring at our large group meal was warm Sam’s Choice products, straight from the two-liter bottles. At $24/head for the meals, we weren’t amused. But no worries; while the sodas were warm, some of the “fresh homemade” hot Italian entrees came to the table partially frozen.

    • dks64 says:

      You said what I was going to say. Refilling soda with a pitcher is a HUGE no-no. It does make the soda flat, which is nasty. The only drinks my restaurant refills with a pitcher are the iced tea and water, both of which aren’t carbonated. Refilling soda with a pitcher just reminds me of cheap pizza places where you go after winning a child’s baseball game. At my restaurant, we use the same straws for water, soda, and mixed alcoholic drinks (except drinks from the bar in bucket glasses, which get 2 smaller straws). We’re not told to go easy on soda refills. Plus, they’re refillable, so it doesn’t matter if I bring you an ice filled drink, I’ll refill it once its empty anyway.

  9. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    Also, this has always bothered me. Why do adults, who supposedly know how to use a glass without spilling it too much, need to drink out of a straw?

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      Sensitive teeth?

      • Dallas_shopper says:

        This is why I prefer a straw. Also, I don’t like getting a face full of ice when I go for that last sip.

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:


      • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

        When’s the last time the straws were cleaned?

        • Booger of Love says:

          A lot of places will bring you a brand new unopened straw sealed in plastic or paper. Only Chinese restaurants re-use their straws.

    • kelcema says:

      (Assuming it’s liquor of some sort) Because when you’re getting intoxicated, it might be more difficult to drink your beverage without spilling on yourself.

      Beyond that (and for non-alcoholic drinks) I imagine tradition factors in quite a bit. “Waiter, where’s my straw?” Easier to just provide one then have people notice it’s missing… and then start wondering what *other* things have been removed/changed, and keep looking around for things to complain about. Psychology factors into just about everything we buy/choose to consume.

    • Hi_Hello says:

      some glasses aren’t as clean as they look.

    • You Can Call Me Al(isa) says:

      Some people just like drinking out of a straw.

    • momtimestwo says:

      I’m 44 and use a straw because after all the work I’ve had done on my teeth, it has made the front ones very sensitive to anything that isn’t mouth temperature.

    • tungstencoil says:

      I just like drinking out of a straw. Always have, always will. I use straws at home, too.

    • cameronl says:

      If I’m eating in an establishment that service beverages in a paper cup, then straws are fine. But if I’m in a nicer place, straws just seem low class.

      Also, if I order beer in a restaurant, don’t bring it to me in a glass plastered with a beer logo. You don’t serve my food on a plate with brands plastered on it. The wine glass doesn’t have Ernest and Julio’s faces on it. I don’t see Absolut’s logo on the martini glasses… Can we keep things civilized for the beer drinkers too, please?

    • quail says:

      It’s a cultural thing. When I was growing up in the South, you only got straws with fast food meals. Sit down restaurants didn’t have them. This was the 70’s & early 80’s. It was only in the North East that you’d see straws stuck into every glass.

      Now everyone serves straws with every drink delivered to the table, except for the hot ones. It’s a big waste in my book. I do get that women’s lipstick stays stuck to the glass & the straw stops this from happening.

      But as to the filth issue…if there’s residue left on that glass after going through a Hobart Dishwasher, then you can rest assured that the residue is fully sanitized. You’re not going to catch something from it. But yea, I agree you should send it back because of the ‘ick’ factor.

    • Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

      I’ll allow the sensitive teeth.

      Cleanliness? Not unless you bring your own or they bring out new, unused silverware, plates, etc. Glasses are washed the same way as all other items.

    • j2.718ff says:

      I use a straw because the glass has ridiculous amount of ice. A straw is simply the easiest way to get to the drink while avoiding the ice.

    • tbax929 says:

      I don’t drink beer or hard liquor through a straw. But I drink iced tea during the day at work and use a straw because I don’t want to stain my teeth. I’ve spent a fortune on this pretty smile!

  10. Coffee says:

    I never drink mixed drinks at restaurants, especially anything that looks like a chain. Whereas bars will often pour you stiff drinks depending on where you go and how you tip your bartender, places like Applebees require bartenders to pour alcohol from jiggers, limiting the strength of your cocktails…this is why margaritas there taste like…well…sour mix.

    So I’ll drink maybe one beer and leave it at that.

    • cruster says:

      Every “good” bar I frequent absolutely uses jiggers or some other measuring cop…cocktails are not just about alcohol strength – it’s a recipe; there’s a balance. It’s the bowling alley and dive bars I end up in from time to time that allow their bartenders to use counts.

      • dks64 says:

        Exactly. The bartenders at my restaurant use counts to pour alcohol. It is about recipes and ratios, everyone should get an equal pour.

    • Reno Raines says:

      I prefer the use of jiggers. Everyone should get the same amount of liquor.

  11. 2 Replies says:

    “Even a detail as seemingly inconsequential as straw size can be geared to suck you dry. Alcoholic drinks are sometimes served with wider straws to get you to slurp down your expensive drinks quicker. Refillable soft drinks, meanwhile, can sport smaller straws that make you take longer to finish each glass. That’s also a reason servers will often bring you new ice-filled cups of soda rather than refilling your glass with a pitcher.”

    This is bullshit.
    When you’ve got your beverage, you’ve already paid (or been billed for it).
    The SPEED at which you drink it does not change the amount of the beverage you’ve paid for or are capable of consuming.
    So straw diameter won’t “suck you dry”. You aren’t paying any more or less money for the goods you’re receiving due to the diameter of the straw.

    Don’t blame the establishment for an individual’s drinking habits, discipline or lack thereof.

    • OSAM says:

      If Tom drinks 1 beer in 30 minutes and he is at the restaurant for 1 hour, how many beers will he drink? If his date, Sally, drinks her mixed drink (through a straw) in 15 minutes and is at the restaurant for the same amount of time as Tom, how many drinks will she consume?

      If Sally’s straw is larger and allows for 50% faster intake, what happens to her consumption? What if the straw is smaller and reduces intake by 50%?

      Math: HOW DOES IT WORK!?

    • Murph1908 says:

      Is there a sarcasm tag I am missing here?

      Dude, if you drink your drink faster, you might actuall want another one. If that next drink costs money, it’s profit for the restaurant. If it is free, it’s a cost for the restaurant.

      Not that hard of a concept.

      If such a small change sells 10 more drinks a night with a $2 profit, that’s $600 in profit per month.

      • dks64 says:

        Don’t people get the signal to their brain of “full” based on what they drink and not the straw size? If I get a mixed drink with a big straw and drink it fast, I’m going to fill up fast and not want another. If I get a smaller straw and sip, it might take me a little longer to drink (or I’ll just sip more often) and I may or may not want another. Usually I base my drink intake on calories, drink size, and how buzzed I’ll get. People need to learn self control. Order water between drinks. When I go to a restaurant, I often already know how many I’m going to drink, straw size has 0 impact on the decision.

  12. KyBash says:

    Best “trick” ever: instead of asking if you want dessert, they roll out a cart filled with yummies and ask which one you want.

    It works for four main reasons:
    1) visually appealing and stimulating.
    2) instant gratification — you know you can be eating it immediately rather than waiting for something to be prepared and delivered.
    3) it puts into your mind that it’s normal and natural to have dessert, and you’d have to be an unsophisticated antisocial to pass it up.
    4) the best desserts often have foreign names, and most people are a trifle self-conscious about the pronunciation of such seldom-used words, especially when with a date or a business associate. They’re far more likely to point to one rather than embarrassing themselves by ordering one off the menu.

    • Applekid ‚îÄ‚îÄ‚î¨ Ôªø„Éé( „Çú-„Çú„Éé) says:

      I’ll have the TIE-rah-miss-sue

    • Professor59 says:

      The dessert cart also works via the shame factor. Like the chick selling roses at your table. Pure blackmail!

    • GrandizerGo says:

      I saw that similar thing happen at a dim su establishment. The woman rolled the cart over to a table that was ready to leave, asked them if they wanted anything and while she was tending to them, the 2 children seated in the table behind her put their hands in the food. Ruined probably 6-10 items on the top rack and 4-6 on the lower rack.
      Needless to say, I left without any dessert that day.

  13. TerpBE says:

    The worst is when they make an upsell sound like it’s included with your meal. I was at a place a while back and the waittress said, “Would you like rolls or biscuits?” It turns out that they weren’t normally included with what I ordered, so when I got the check I was charged for them!

    • Phil says:

      This was the case at a fast food place I ate at recently. I got some value meal and they asked what size drink I wanted, medium or large. The meal comes with a small drink, the theory being most people, even if they are cost conscious, would say medium without even realizing that they were just upcharged.

      • some.nerd says:

        I *just* realized they were doing that to me last time I went to BK… “small” is the standard (which was formerly their “medium”, the current “medium” was formerly “large” and the current “large” used to be “king size”… oops, I’ve gone cross-eyed.)
        Saddest thing is, they’ve been doing that to me for years and I just recently noticed it! Derp.

  14. magnetic says:

    I go to a restaurant for a nice meal – not to make sure that I’m giving the owner as little profit as possible. If they can save on the costs of ingredients and I get a good time/meal, it’s win-win to me.

  15. sirwired says:

    “Refillable soft drinks, meanwhile, can sport smaller straws that make you take longer to finish each glass. That’s also a reason servers will often bring you new ice-filled cups of soda rather than refilling your glass with a pitcher.”

    Phil, that makes absolutely no sense. An ice-filled cup of soda will be emptied faster because there’s so much ice in it. It’d take longer to finish if there was more drink in the glass.

    • SerenityDan says:

      I bring you out your refill. You don’t finish it. Lots of ice = not as much soda that now has to be dumped out.

      • dks64 says:

        From the servers POV: More ice = more trips for me to make getting refills. When someone has already slurped down 4 diet cokes in the last 6 minutes, trust me, we don’t care about filling up the cup with ice. We’re supposed to fill it up halfway every time. From the restaurant POV, each time we have to bring out a refill, we have to wash the previous glass. More labor and more water = more money. Soda is cheaper. Coming from someone who has been in the industry for 10 years, this isn’t an evil scheme.

  16. pk says:

    You are not allowed by law to remove glasses from the table and refill them. You must bring a fresh glass every time or refill the glasses using a pitcher right at the table.

    • AstroPig7 says:

      Citation, please.

      • Coleoptera Girl says:

        I second this motion.

        • do-it-myself says:

          I third this.

          I was at Red Lobster a couple months ago and my glass WAS swapped with my partners. We both had Iced Tea. The server took both of our glasses and I realized I had gotten the wrong one back because I noticed there were suddenly more less lemons in mine and more in his.

    • dks64 says:

      I wonder if it varies by state (bet it does). As far as I know that’s not the policy here in California (Cheesecake Factory does it), but my restaurant brings out a new cup every time.

  17. sanchezizme says:

    If you are with a group, watch for larger wine glasses being used when you order by the bottle. The server can pour a little more wine into each glass, which empties it faster. If the group is large enough, the server can drain the whole bottle on the first pour. Then they ask if they should bring another bottle. The second bottle is sold before anyone has even had a sip of their first glass.

  18. majortom1981 says:

    What resteraunts do you people go to? Any respectable resteraunt does not do this. I worked for one that did not sue any of these tactics.

    Even my favorite resteraunt does not do this. They will just ask you if you want dessert . They just ask no arguing or anything like that. I just say no just the check .They smile and bring me the check.

    • some.nerd says:

      Any Brinker-owned establishment (Chilis, Macaroni Grill, Magianno’s), plus the now-non-Brinker-owned On The Border will upsell right up yer arse if you let ’em.

  19. oldtaku says:

    The big one they don’t mention is the $2 soda. Even at little take-out places!

    At $1 they’d still be making a profit and I’d probably spring for it, but that’s just ridiculous and I never get it. But I guess enough people don’t even see the price – they’re usually buried at the bottom of the board.

  20. TheRealDeal says:

    If I have to say “no thanks” to attempts to upsell me six times during my meal, that’s when it’s time to leave and or speak with the manager. I understand that you’re trying to make as much revenue as possible, but it comes off as crass because you’re attempting to either fool me into additional items or enhancements or exert social pressure on me by making me look cheap in front of my dining guests. I don’t appreciate such tactics.

  21. CalicoGal says:

    I get what I’d like to have and not worry over it… if I want water to drink, that’s what I ask for. If I am in the mood for soda or beer, I get it.
    And if it’s a night out with the drinking buddies… forget about it… its cocktails and shots…

  22. eezy-peezy says:

    I can’t figure out a fast food restaurant with refillable drinks in two sizes.

    • Nobby says:

      Depends on how many trips you wants to make to the drank machine, is all.

    • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

      LOL. So true. My wife and I buy one small and share it.

    • Powerlurker says:

      Most fast food joints do the majority of their business through the drive-through. Those people aren’t coming back for refills.

  23. bethshanin says:

    Number one way they get me is to sell me my first drink as ordered: “Captain and Coke”. Then the next few rounds they mysteriously “upgrade me” up $12 a friggin drink to the rum I don’t like on the upper shelves.

    Multiple bars, multiple cities. I don’t notice until the next day when I look at the receipt.

  24. cyberpenguin says:

    The recent trick I noticed at our local Texas Roadhouse. Burgers don’t come with fries anymore, but when ordering the waitress’ don’t mention it.

    They just say “Fries or onion rings?”

    Unless you ask, management tells them not to warn customers.

  25. some.nerd says:

    “Would you like to add a bowl of hot, creamy queso dip?”
    “Great! Would you like to load it with ground beef and jalapenos?”
    “How about a margarita? I recommend the Perfect Patr√¥n!”
    Yup… I just added $16 to your meal that you swore would only total $8.99.
    Boo ya, UPSOLD.

  26. Nobby says:

    I grew up in Chicago and at birth I was taught how to order pizza. I moved to N. Dakota and saw everyone ordering a “cheese and pepperoni” pizza AND PAYING FOR TWO TOPPINGS!

    That’s one topping–pepperoni! No one gives you “extra cheese” unless you say EXTRA CHEESE! Just to prove my point, I ordered a pepperoni-only pizza. My roomy was astonished when–lo and behold–my pizza was like his, only cheaper.

  27. sweaterhogans says:

    My favorite are the false bottoms on pitchers and pints. Most people never notice that their pint is far less than that. jerks

    • Powerlurker says:

      If you order a pint and they give you less than that, wouldn’t that be something you could report to your state’s weights and measures division, bureau, etc.?

  28. Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:


    Next you’ll be telling us that car dealers try to sell high profit items like upholstery protection packages and extended warranties.

    • Nobby says:

      Wait, what?

    • BackInBlack says:

      Yep. Yet another slow news day for Phil. Other ideas for upcoming articles:
      Insurance agents try to trick you into higher coverage amounts and lower deductibles!
      New report says telemarketers call during dinner to sell vinyl siding!
      Health clubs continue to market memberships to people who won’t ever go back!

      Keep up the good work.

  29. dolemite says:

    No matter what tricks they employ, I am impervious.

  30. jnl says:

    Interesting article! While I don’t drink alcohol (so Im not enticed to buy a drink) I’ve always heard to have your drink at home! Also I never order desserts as I know it pads the bill and being slightly overweight, I save calories! And honestly, some of those desserts are not even that enticing to me! I usually drink water so they don’t make much off of me and I save money (and calories).

  31. jnl says:

    Interesting article! While I don’t drink alcohol (so Im not enticed to buy a drink) I’ve always heard to have your drink at home! Also I never order desserts as I know it pads the bill and being slightly overweight, I save calories! And honestly, some of those desserts are not even that enticing to me! I usually drink water so they don’t make much off of me and I save money (and calories).

  32. tooluser says:

    Most of you should just plain not eat out, ever.

  33. FedoraFetish says:

    I only ever get water from restaurants unless they have a special drink I can’t normally purchase. I’ve heard drinks are a restuarant’s most profitable item. I don’t care if the waiter tries to hassle me to order dessert, I just politely decline if I’m not interested.

    On the contrary what bugs me is when I go to a fancy restuarant alone and I don’t get asked if I want dessert when every party of two or more is asked that question. I go to fancy restuarants alone so I can spend a ton of money for a good time but don’t have any friends who want to squander their money on such indulgences. If they don’t ask I don’t order, its their loss for discriminating against the independent diner.

  34. BackInBlack says:

    What chaps me is not paying $7 for a Margarita; it’s paying $7 for a glass of crushed ice with about two sips of Margarita in it for color—that’s two sips with the tiny cocktail straw, by the way. This actually happened to me recently at Beef O’Brady’s.