Given the rate of chicken wing consumption in this country, clearly hot sauce-slathered chicken and blue cheese is a winning combination for most American palates. Problem is, the majority of take-out restaurants deliver wings with more fat than flavor, and now chains such as Chili’s, Ruby Tuesday, and Buffalo Wild Wings are using the high-in-calorie combinations of sugar and sauce to fatten up their sandwiches, too. In this healthier buffalo chicken sandwich recipe, we stay true to the flavors people love by basting the chicken in hot sauce and butter after grilling, topping with a yogurt-based blue cheese sauce—but manage to do what no one else out there has done yet: make Buffalo chicken into a healthy meal. Try the same technique with grilled shrimp, and serve with or without the bread, depending on your preference.

387 calories, 15 g fat (5 g saturated), 912 mg sodium

Serves 4

You’ll Need

1⁄4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1⁄2 cup Greek-style yogurt
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
4 chicken breasts (6 oz each)
1⁄2 Tbsp chili powder
1 red onion, sliced
3 Tbsp favorite hot sauce (Frank’s Red Hot works best here.)
2 Tbsp butter, melted in the microwave for 20 seconds
4 large romaine lettuce leaves
4 sesame buns, toasted

How to Make It

  1. Preheat a grill or grill pan. While it’s heating, combine the blue cheese, yogurt, and lemon juice, plus a pinch of salt and pepper.
  2. Stir to combine, and set aside.
  3. Season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper, and the chili powder.
  4. Add the chicken to the hot grill and cook for 4 to 5 minutes the first side, then flip.
  5. Add the onions to the perimeter of the grill (if using a grill pan, you’ll need to wait until you remove the chicken to grill the onions).
  6. Cook the chicken until firm and springy to the touch, another 4 to 5 minutes. Remove, along with the grilled onions.
  7. Combine the hot sauce and butter and brush all over the chicken after removing from the grill.
  8. Place one large leaf of romaine on the base of each bun.
  9. Top with a chicken breast, the blue cheese sauce, grilled onions, and then the top half of the bun.

This recipe (and hundreds more!) came from one of our Cook This, Not That! books. For more easy cooking ideas, you can also buy the book!

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Chicagoans take hot dogs pretty seriously. So seriously, in fact, that the actual order in which you apply the ingredients is of paramount importance (at least as they tell it). We’ll cut them some slack because, after all, they make the best dogs in the country (sorry, New York, you’ve got the best bagels though!), and the fact that they come so loaded with produce (“run through the garden,” as they say) means that what could be a snack for some quickly turns into a surprisingly reasonable meal.

250 calories, 9 g fat (3.5 g saturated), 1,020 mg sodium

Serves 4

You’ll Need

4 reduced-fat all-beef dogs (we like anything from Applegate Farms)
4 poppy seed hot dog buns
Yellow mustard relish
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 large beefsteak tomato, cut into wedges
4 pickle spears
8 sport peppers (These little light green chiles have an awesome spicy pop but are tough to come by. Pepperoncini, if need be, can fill in.)
Celery salt

How to Make It

  1. Bring a medium pot of water to boil.
  2. Turn the heat to low, add the hot dogs, and cook for 5 minutes, until heated all the way through.
  3. Alternatively, you can grill the dogs until lightly charred all over (which, while untraditional, is probably more delicious).
  4. Dump out all but a few inches of the water and place a steamer basket in the pot. Steam the buns until warm and very soft.
  5. Place a dog in each bun, then arrange the toppings in the following order: mustard, relish, onion, a few tomato wedges, pickle spear, two sport peppers, and a pinch of celery salt.

Eat This Tip

Chicagoans are particular about their ingredients: The buns must be poppy seed, the relish must be neon green (often called piccalilli), and the peppers must be sport peppers. Finding all of that in your local market is next to impossible. If you want a 100 percent authentic Chicago dog, you can pick up all the authentic fixings at Vienna Beef, or you can do what we do and wing it. (Just don’t tell the Chicagoans.)

This recipe (and hundreds more!) came from one of our Cook This, Not That! books. For more easy cooking ideas, you can also buy the book!

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Unless it’s dessert, never order anything on a restaurant menu with the word “mini” in it. Sounds counterintuitive, but so-called mini bites come with maximum fat saturation. These tasty burger bites, however, are different. Because one sliders recipe wasn’t enough, we give you two, so you’ll be able to deliver some huge flavor for a truly mini caloric price tag. They’re great for appetizers, snacks, and parties!

320 calories, 18 g fat (7 g saturated), 400 mg sodium (average of both)

Serves 4

You’ll Need

For Mushroom-Blue Cheese Sliders:

2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
11⁄2 cups sliced mushrooms
Salt and black pepper to taste
1⁄2 lb ground sirloin
2 Tbsp steak sauce
1⁄4 cup crumbled blue cheese
4 small soft whole wheat rolls, about 2″ in diameter (Martin’s mini potato rolls are perfect for the job)

For Chipotle-Bacon Sliders:

2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp chipotle pepper
1⁄2 lb ground sirloin
Salt and black pepper to taste
1⁄2 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 small soft rolls, about 2″ in diameter
4 strips cooked bacon
Caramelized onions

How to Make It

For Mushroom-Blue Cheese Sliders:

  1. Heat a cast-iron skillet or sauté pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the oil and garlic and sauté for 60 seconds, until fragrant but not brown.
  3. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mushrooms are nicely caramelized.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Heat a grill pan or cast-iron skillet over medium heat.
  6. Season the sirloin with salt and pepper; form into 4 patties, being careful not to overwork the meat (which will create dense, chewy patties).
  7. Brush each patty with steak sauce.
  8. When the pan is hot, add the burgers and cook for 3 minutes on the first side, then flip.
  9. Add the blue cheese crumbles to the cooked side and continue grilling for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the patties are firm and the cheese has begun to melt.
  10. Remove the burgers.
  11. While the pan is still hot, toast the rolls. Brush them with a bit more steak sauce if you like, then top each with a burger and mushrooms.

For Chipotle-Bacon Sliders:

  1. Mix the mayo and chipotle pepper.
  2. Prepare and cook the burgers as described for the mushroom-blue cheese sliders, omitting the steak sauce and subbing cheddar for the blue cheese.
  3. Spread the rolls with a bit of the mayo mixture, then top with the burgers, bacon, and caramelized onions.

This recipe (and hundreds more!) came from one of our Cook This, Not That! books. For more easy cooking ideas, you can also buy the book!

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Pureed fermented soybeans might not sound like good eats, but miso is one of the culinary world’s greatest flavor enhancers. The credit goes to miso’s huge dose of umami that it contributes to soups, dressings, and marinades. You’ll find a variety of miso pastes in the refrigerator section of upscale grocers such as Whole Foods. The more intense red miso can take a pedestrian steak to a new stratosphere, while the milder white miso proves a perfect marinade for fish and seafood. If you can’t find miso at a store near you, score some online at But once you try out this miso-glazed scallops recipe, you’re bound to want to put miso in everything.

300 calories, 15 g fat (1.5 g saturated), 920 mg sodium

Serves 4

You’ll Need

1⁄2  cup white miso paste
1⁄2  cup sake
1⁄4  cup sugar
1⁄4  cup canola oil
1  lb large scallops, tough membranes removed
2  cups sugar snap peas
1⁄2 Tbsp sesame oil
Salt and black pepper to taste

How to Make It

  1. Combine the miso, sake, sugar, and oil in a mixing bowl and whisk to thoroughly combine.
  2. Transfer one-fourth of the mixture to a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate. Add the scallops to the remaining miso, turn to coat, and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours and up to 12.
  3. Preheat the broiler.
  4. Place an oiled baking sheet or large cast-iron skillet 6″ beneath the broiler.
  5. Remove the scallops from the marinade and pat dry.
  6. Toss the sugar snaps with the sesame oil and salt and pepper to taste.
  7. When the baking sheet is very hot, carefully remove and arrange the sugar snaps and scallops on the sheet.
  8. Return to the oven and broil for 5 to 6 minutes, until the scallops are thoroughly browned and firm and the sugar snaps are tender.
  9. Serve the scallops and snap peas with a drizzle of the reserved miso sauce.

Eat This Tip

Salty, sour, sweet, bitter…umami? Considered the fifth main flavor group, umami can best be described as an intense, savory flavor found in tomatoes, mushrooms, Parmesan, and more. The Japanese in particular prize umami, and many of their staples contain big doses of it, from soy sauce to dried seaweed to miso paste. A good rule of thumb: The more umami in your food, the better it will taste.

Love this recipe? Subscribe to our Eat This, Not That! magazine for even more at-home cooking and healthy eating ideas.

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Veggie burgers may seem like safe havens for nonmeat eaters and calorie counters alike, but the shocking truth we discovered after years of analyzing restaurant nutritional information is that vegetarian burgers offer little to no refuge from the onslaught of calories, fat, and sodium found in beef burgers. We don’t mess around with fake patties in this mushroom burger recipe either; instead, we go straight for a meaty portobello cap, rubbed in olive oil and balsamic, and topped with a crown of melted mozz. Even if you’re a beef buff, we think you’ll like this meatless burger.

370 calories, 16 g fat (4 g saturated), 540 mg sodium

Serves 4

You’ll Need

2 Tbsp mayonnaise
Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
1⁄4 cup finely chopped roasted red peppers
1 clove garlic, minced
4 large portobello caps, stems removed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
Salt and black pepper to taste
1⁄2 cup shredded mozzarella
4 slices red onion
4 potato rolls or whole-grain buns
A few handfuls of mixed greens, arugula, or other lettuce

How to Make It

  1. Heat a grill or grill pan.
  2. Combine the mayonnaise, lemon juice, red peppers, and garlic. (For a uniformly red mayo, puree in a food processor.)
  3. Rub the mushrooms with the olive oil, vinegar, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper.
  4. Grill, top side down, for 2 to 3 minutes, flip, and immediately add the cheese.
  5. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the mushrooms are fully cooked. While the mushrooms are cooking, grill the onions until browned and toast the buns.
  6. Top each bun with greens, grilled onions, mushrooms, and the red pepper mayo.

Eat This Tip

Regular mayonnaise is boring; you just don’t get a whole lot of flavor in exchange for your hefty calorie investment. By cutting the mayonnaise with ingredients like minced or roasted garlic, chipotle pepper puree, or roasted red peppers, you kill two birds with one stone: You up the flavor quotient, while simultaneously lowering the caloric density of the mayo itself by bolstering it with healthier ingredients. Other great ingredients to flavor mayonnaise include balsamic vinegar, capers, fresh herbs, and wasabi powder. Just be sure to start with olive oil mayonnaise as your base; it’s lower in calories and has a richer flavor.

This recipe (and hundreds more!) came from one of our Cook This, Not That! books. For more easy cooking ideas, you can also buy the book!

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At its core, a frittata is a crustless quiche that’s both considerably easier to make and substantially healthier to eat. A win-win! A great breakfast item, this frittata is an absolutely perfect start to your day because once it’s made, it’s a nutritious and delicious ready-made meal ready and waiting for you right when you need it most. Make one at the beginning of the week, then slice off a wedge each morning. You could even stuff a piece between a toasted English muffin for a gourmet breakfast sandwich.

325 calories, 21 g fat (6 g saturated), 480 mg sodium

Serves 4

You’ll Need

1⁄2 Tbsp olive oil
1⁄4 cup bottled roasted red peppers, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups baby arugula or baby spinach
4 thin slices prosciutto or other good ham, cut into strips
8 eggs, beaten
Salt and black pepper to taste
1⁄2 cup crumbled goat cheese

How to Make It

  1. Preheat the broiler. Heat the olive oil in a nonstick, 12″ oven-safe skillet over medium-low heat.
  2. Add the roasted pepper and garlic and cook for about 1 minute, until the garlic is fragrant but not browned.
  3. Stir in the arugula and cook for another 2 minutes or so, until lightly wilted.
  4. Add the prosciutto, then pour the eggs over the top.
  5. Season the eggs with a good amount of salt and pepper, then dot with the crumbled goat cheese.
  6. Cook on the stovetop for 5 to 6 minutes, until most of the egg has set.
  7. Place the pan 6″ under the broiler and cook for about 3 minutes, until the rest of the egg has fully set and the top of the frittata has begun to brown.
  8. Cool slightly, remove from the pan, and cut into wedges.

Eat This Tip

Don’t take the ingredients in this recipe too literally; rather, learn the basic technique, then play around with the filling based on what you like or what your refrigerator happens to be sheltering. Here are a few ideas to get the wheels turning:

  • Sautéed chorizo, onions, and poblano peppers
  • Leftover chicken or steak, pesto, and ricotta cheese
  • Mushrooms, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta

This recipe (and hundreds more!) came from one of our Cook This, Not That! books. For more easy cooking ideas, you can also buy the book!

The post Easy Frittata With Arugula and Red Peppers Recipe appeared first on Eat This Not That.

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Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit activist group dedicated to public health, releases its Shoppers’ Guide to Pesticides in Produce—and this year’s report is finally out. To help consumers make more informed decisions about their diets, EWG researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to identify which fruits and vegetables are most and least contaminated with pesticide residues. (If the Dirty Dozen sounds familiar, you can thank the EWG.)

“It’s important to note that a variety of fruits and vegetables is important for a healthy diet, whether they are conventional or organic,” Carla Burns, a research analyst at EWG and co-author of the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, tells us. “Reducing your overall exposure to pesticides may also be beneficial to health. Several epidemiological studies have shown that switching to an organic diet can reduce the levels of pesticides measured in human urine samples, and new research finds that organic diets reduce the risk of cancer in the population.”

After washing conventionally-grown produce samples under water and peeling them, the USDA pinpointed a whopping 225 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products present, and the EWG found that nearly 70 percent of non-organic produce contain pesticide residues. Find out which top 12 fruits and veggies made this year’s Dirty Dozen. You’ll want to shop the organic versions of these foods after reading this!



sliced strawberriesShutterstock

Your go-to post-dinner snack just happens to be the prime host for potentially toxic insecticides. The 2019 report shows that over 90 percent of strawberry samples tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides. Head to Whole Foods to stock up on the organic version of this vitamin C-rich fruit.



Saute frozen spinachShutterstock

Elevate your healthy eating habits by switching to organic spinach: 76 percent of spinach samples tested positive for permethrin, a neurotoxic pesticide that’s banned in Europe. Plus, DDT—a chemical used in WWII to control malaria, typhus, body lice, and bubonic plague that was adopted as a pesticide—has been banned since 1972, yet its residues and breakdown products were present on 40 percent of spinach samples because DDT remains in farm soil.



Crispy garlic kale chipsShutterstock

While the 2019 list doesn’t differ much from last year’s, there is a new and popular addition that cracks the top three: kale. “We were surprised kale had so many pesticides on it, but the test results were unequivocal,” EWG Toxicologist Alexis Temkin, PhD, stated in a press release. “Fruits and vegetables are an important part of everyone’s diet, and when it comes to some conventionally grown produce items, such as kale, choosing organic may be a better option.” It’s been a decade since the USDA tested kale, which usurped the eighth spot for most pesticide-laden produce back in 2009. What’s more, a staggering 60 percent of kale samples tested positive for Dacthal, or DCPA, which is classified as a possible human carcinogen.




More than 90 percent of nectarine samples tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides.



Apple sauceShutterstock

Apples, especially the Pink Lady variety, are brimming with antioxidants. However, over 90 percent of apple samples tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides.




Next time you throw this juicy fruit into the freezer for a refreshing snack, make sure it’s of the organic variety. Because grapes made the Dirty Dozen list again, you may want to make sure you’re shopping for organic wines, too.



Peach banana oat smoothieShutterstock

Bite into a peach, and your body will benefit from digestion-aiding fiber and collagen-building vitamin C. But the conventionally-grown cobbler staple can also expose you to unwanted pesticides.



Cherries in bowlShutterstock

If you’re snacking on melatonin-rich cherries to fight insomnia, know that over 90 percent of samples showed pesticide residues. Forget losing sleep over that and go for organic.



Pears on a plateShutterstock

Whether you’re throwing some pear slices into a smoothie or artfully arranging them atop a homemade pie, this fruit cracked the Dirty Dozen’s top 10, so you’re better off buying them organic.

RELATED: This 7-day smoothie diet will help you shed those last few pounds.



Tomatoes in panShutterstock

The salad staple might make for a delicious Caprese, but buying organic tomatoes will ensure you’re getting the most benefits.



Celery juiceShutterstock

If you’re trying to get your kids to eat more veggies by using celery as a vessel for peanut butter, consider going organic. “Even low levels of pesticide exposure can be harmful to children,” Dr. Philip Landrigan, a world-renowned pediatrician and epidemiologist, said in a press release. “When possible, parents and caregivers should take steps to lower children’s exposures to pesticides, while still feeding them diets rich in healthy fruits and vegetables.”



Potatoes a la maitre d'hotelShutterstock

Unless you’re buying organic taters, skip the mash, or opt for whipping up mashed cauliflower as a lower-carb and less pesticide-ridden alternative.



Hot Peppers

Spicy chili peppersShutterstock

This year, the EWG also highlighted hot peppers because they were found to contain insecticides toxic to the human nervous system.

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If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, you probably feel like you know too much about dining out. Once you’ve pulled back the curtain, it’s hard to unsee all the clever tactics restaurants and servers use to get you to fork over more of your hard-earned money. But for those who haven’t had a server, hostess, manager, or other food service industry job, those secrets remain a mystery. You know you tend to leave restaurants with your stomach fuller and wallet emptier than when you came in, but there’s so much more to learn when it comes to those sneaky restaurant tricks.

By culling through insider information from servers and restaurant managers, along with some scientific studies, we’ve put together a list of all the ways restaurants get you to order more items—and pricier ones at that. As you’ll soon see, so much of it comes down to psychology.

According to an Atlanta-based top-earning waiter and restaurant manager, who asked to remain anonymous, servers begin sizing you up the moment you sit down in their section. “The goal is to be nuanced—for the result to be the guest believing they made a decision that they were unknowingly guided towards,” said our industry insider with 15 years of experience. “The goal isn’t to get someone to buy something that they don’t want. The goal is to be able to identify what people do want, and then use psychology to guide them towards making that decision themselves.”

Many restaurants help the process along considerably, sending you subconscious cues via tricky menu design, strategic music choices, and “decoy pricing.” As you read on, you’ll be shocked to learn all the sneaky restaurant tricks that get you to both eat and spend more.


Using decoy pricing.

server grabbing tips from customerShutterstock

Most restaurants don’t necessarily want you to order the most expensive entrée on the menu. They want you to order the entrée that they make the most money on. But how do they get you to do that?

Well, according to Joshua Clark of Stuff You Should Know, restaurants commonly place a somewhat pricey item with a high-profit margin close to a noticeably more expensive item with a lower profit margin on the menu. By comparison, that makes the former option seem like a good deal and a responsible choice to diners.

This practice is called “decoy pricing,” and the wallet-busting item that effectively makes everything surrounding it seem like a better value is called “the anchor.”


Pushing drinks up front.

server taking notes for group of friends with drinksShutterstock

Giving customers a drink menu early on in a meal has become common practice at restaurants, and there are a few reasons why. Firstly, it’s no secret that after a second glass of wine, you might find yourself more receptive to the persuasiveness of a server who’s handing over a dessert menu when you’re already stuffed.

But on top of that, drinking alcohol makes us more likely to indulge. A 2015 study out of Indiana University’s School of Medicine published in the journal Obesity found that female participants under the influence ate more than those in a sober placebo group.

MRI scans showed that in the tipsy group, the hypothalamus, which controls the metabolism, tended to be more responsive to the smell of food, making those women feel hungrier.


Bringing an amuse bouche.

considerate waitress asking table questionShutterstock

Who doesn’t love getting a free teaser (aka an amuse bouche) before their appetizers even hit the table? It may seem like a win for the customer, but that’s not actually the case.

By providing a free amuse bouche, a server can create a sense of indebtedness without spoiling diners’ appetites, and that comes in handy when recommending a higher ticket entrée or an extra side dish later on. Also, if you feel like you’ve already caught a break by getting something for free, you’re more likely to financially justify splurging on a high-priced menu item.


Asking if you’d like a specific side dish.

plated side of friesShutterstock

“Would you like a side of fries with that?” is a classic upselling move at restaurants, according to Charles Gaudet, CEO of Predictable Profits. Of course, the answer is usually yes.

But when your meal shows up, you might find that you’ve ordered much more food than you’d planned on eating. And when you get the bill, you might also see an unexpected bump in the price tag for something that you thought was included in the cost of your entrée.

A server in Reddit’s “Tales From Your Server” forum had another approach to this tried-and-true trick. “If you word it as it being a ‘pairing’ of dishes instead of just a flat out upsell, people usually respond better,” Reddit user drburns420 wrote. “Like, ‘Oh, would you also like to try some of our mashed potatoes? They go so well with that entrée you just ordered.’”


Offering another bottle of wine, but settling on a glass.

hand refusing more wine being pouredShutterstock

If a server offers your table a second bottle of wine, your gut (or your liver and wallet) might tell you that it’s too excessive. But by comparison, an additional glass might feel like you’re exercising restraint—even if it wasn’t part of your original plan. That’s why a server tends to ask if you’d like another bottle first.

Our food industry insider told us that this common move is the alcohol equivalent of decoy pricing. Your server is essentially using an indulgent choice (a whole bottle of wine) as a red herring to make the mid-range choice that the restaurant makes more money on (a glass of wine) more appealing.


Using negative space on the menu.

woman pointing and admiring item on menuShutterstock

What is a restaurant menu if not an advertisement for the food on offer? And what’s one of the most common visual advertising tools? The use of negative space to emphasize a message.

Pockets of negative space will naturally draw the eye to a featured item by visually singling it out. It’s prime real estate for the restaurant’s star: an entrée that’ll make them the most money. “If a menu is crammed with text, the eye will naturally be drawn to any open spaces,” explains Aaron Allen, a global restaurant consultant. “Items with the largest profit margins are often set in their own space, away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the descriptions.”

On top of that, a simple menu design contributes to a more sleek, upscale, and refined brand image. Using negative space is a win-win for restaurants.


Offering dessert “or just another glass of wine.”

waiter carrying dessert tray with one handShutterstock

Sure, ordering dessert might nudge the bill up by a few dollars and give your server a little boost in tip. But from the restaurant’s standpoint, desserts have razor-thin profit margins and a concrete ceiling for how much diners are willing to pay.

If a server offers dessert “or just another glass of wine,” that gives the patron an opportunity to turn down dessert for something that seems like less of a commitment and is more moderate from a calorie perspective. But the wine is actually a better sale for the restaurant.

“A cocktail brings in twice as much money as a dessert, and it doesn’t hold up a table at the end of the meal,” Mark Bucher, owner of Medium Rare in Washington, D.C., told The Washington Post.


Suggesting “something green.”

customer asking questions to server about menuShutterstock

Peer pressure among diners is a reality. A 2013 study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that if you order after someone who chooses something health-conscious, you’re more likely to follow suit. (Conversely, if the person ordering before you splurges on a higher-calorie item, then you’re more likely to do the same.)

With that being said, if your server follows up your order by asking if you’d like to add “something green” for the table, the subtle message is that your order could’ve been healthier. Caving and ordering that side of Brussels sprouts may be the only way to assuage your self-consciousness, and as you might’ve guessed by now, your server already knew that.

RELATED: The science-backed way to curb your sweet tooth in 14 days.



man thinking of buying wineShutterstock

It may sound counterintuitive, but severs will often subtly downsell a customer as a form of reverse psychology—especially if the customer is “someone who flaunts that they have money,” our industry insider said.

If a server mentions an expensive wine option briefly and then pushes another bottle that’s a “better value,” many times the person will buy the more expensive wine to show that they don’t need a “better value.”


Suggesting a “personal favorite.”

server making a suggestion to couple about menuShutterstock

Servers who seem sincere in sharing the menu items they personally prefer are able to connect more with their customers.

As Reddit user pepperedcitrus shared their approach: “If I have a guy that can’t decide between the $11 BBQ burger or the $13 bleu cheese and bacon burger, I’ll suggest the $11 option. I’ll say the BBQ burger is better but he totally needs to upgrade the side to mac and cheese. It’s still a $13 sale.” Others in the Tales From Your Server forum agreed that this is one of the most common and effective ways to earn a customer’s trust.

But buyer beware: You still might be upsold later. “If he likes it, he’s more likely to take my suggestion on a dessert or his next drink and then I can suggest the more expensive option,” the Redditor added.


Selling you on exclusivity.

customer asking question with date about menu to waiterShutterstock

According to our industry insider, one effective way to coax a customer into spending more at a restaurant is to make an item seem like a rarity. “Mentioning something off the menu that ‘we only just got in and won’t have for much longer’ can prompt a sale,” he said.


Asking if you’d like “flat or sparkling.”

pouring water for tableShutterstock

In a Reddit forum for servers looking for tips on upselling customers, user zaitsu suggested asking diners if they’d like “flat or sparkling” water at the start of their meal.

The customer may feel embarrassed to order tap water instead and cave for the pricier bottled water. And whether or not a diner was easily pressured may also signal to the server which person at the table is most likely to give in and order higher-ticket items in general.


Pricing strategically.

Man shocked by menuShutterstock

At fine dining restaurants, you’ll probably notice that prices are typically rounded to the dollar. This sends a confident signal that the restaurant’s dishes are worth the price.

At more casual restaurants, where customers are likely to factor in value for their money, you’ll see items priced at five cents under the target cost. So, an entrée will be $12.95, instead of $13 (which psychologically, can seem like a full dollar more) or $7.99 (which can seem like a cheap gimmick).

“Humans are incredibly bad at processing numbers intuitively and have a tendency to remember the first thing they see in any sequence,” Redditor syzygy12 wrote. “When something costs $1.95 or the like, your brain sees $1 first. Then when you try to figure out about how much it costs, your brain says ‘about $1’ rather than ‘about $2.’”


Walking by with food when you’ve only ordered drinks.

server with drinks and salad on tray standing by tableShutterstock

When you stop into a restaurant for drinks only, your server will usually set a single menu on the table, “just in case you change your mind.” Then, they’ll walk by you with another table’s appetizers to get food on your brain. “If I have a table only drinking I make sure I walk by them with good looking apps and food,” Redditor pepperedcitrus explained.

The more drinks you have, the more likely you are to change your mind and order a dish or two. Besides, you wouldn’t want to drink on an empty stomach, would you?


Removing the dollar sign.

menu prices listed with no dollar signs on open menuShutterstock

One of the worst mistakes a restaurant can make on its menu is to include dollar signs, according to marketing consultant Martin Lindstrom. “Using a dollar sign in front of the price decreases our likelihood of making the purchase,” Lindstrom wrote for Time magazine. “The dollar sign is a symbol of cost, rather than gain. Removing the sign helps the consumer sidestep the harsh reality of outstanding bills and longer-term financial concerns.”

A 2009 study from Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality Research confirmed that groups offered menus with dollar signs next to the prices spent far less than those given menus with only numerals. The dollar sign is a rather powerful visual trigger that reminds us we’re about to lose something we value, prompting our instinct to spend with restraint.


Playing off personality types.

Waiter pouring glass wine at restaurantShutterstock

At fine dining establishments, it’s not uncommon for a seasoned server to identify the different personality types at the table, and work them accordingly.

“Identifying the ‘alpha’ person at the table is the first step,” our industry insider explained. “Using the ego of the alpha as leverage, a server can put them in a position to buy a more expensive cocktail or bottle of wine by subtly implying that, like the alpha, it’s special.”

The next step is to identify the beta at the table, aka “the person who wants to be or impress the alpha,” our insider said. “That person many times will buy a more expensive bottle of wine and pick up the check in trying to impress.”


Using heavier plates and cutlery.

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Restaurants that invest in heftier flatware and cutlery are sending you a subtle signal that their food is worth a hefty price tag.

According to Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University, how much we enjoy our food has a lot to do with the tools we use to eat it. In his 2013 study on the subject, which was published in the journal Flavour, Spence found that because we associate heavier plates and cutlery with expense, we tend to view meals eaten off them as more luxurious and enjoyable.


Using descriptive language.

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“Superlative claims—descriptions like ‘the world’s best burger’—can’t possibly be true, and diners will simply ignore them,” restaurant consultant Allen explained. “However, enticing adjectives, like ‘line-caught’ or ‘sun-dried,’ will feed the imagination and get our taste buds tingling.”

In a 2002 six-week field study from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, researchers found that adding an enticing description to a menu item increased sales by a whopping 27 percent. These appetizing descriptions changed customers’ feelings of satisfaction toward the food and the restaurant, even influencing their thoughts about returning in the future.


Playing classical music.

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Curating a more cultured atmosphere with classical music is a widely-used tactic in fine dining establishments. At no cost to the restaurant, the music signals to the customer that, just like the atmosphere, the food is exquisite—and worth whatever price they’ve named.

In a 2003 study from the University of Leicester published in the journal Environment and Behavior, a restaurant played classical music, pop music, and no music over the course of 18 nights. The classical music inspired guests to spend more money on their meals when compared with the nights when pop music or no music played.


Nesting the prices.

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We’ve all seen menus in which the prices are listed on the right-hand side, far away from the food choices. But when diners see this, it’s all too easy to skim the prices, decide what they’re comfortable spending, and then rule out any entrées above that number.

“The goal is to get them to scan the unique item names and well-written descriptions and make their choices based on what sounds/looks good,” Allen said. “Considering the price should be secondary, not primary.” And that’s exactly what “nesting” the prices next to the food items does.

With this menu design, diners are far more likely to consider all of their options, and choose based on what sounds most delicious, without consulting the price tag.

The post 20 Sneaky Ways Restaurants Get You to Eat More Food and Spend More Money appeared first on Eat This Not That.

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