Even though we go out to eat because we don’t feel like dining at home, there’s something about a home-cooked meal that appeals to everyone.
Restaurants know that ― and they use this knowledge to get us to spend more money.
Sure, restaurateurs rely on many tactics to make us ultimately spend more money. There is a whole industry of menu engineers, after all, who cleverly design menus that encourage us to open our wallets. But one of the trickiest ways they get us is by triggering our nostalgia.
You’d order Nonna’s lasagna over a vegetable lasagna any day, right? Restaurants know that people like the names of mothers, grandmothers and other relatives on their menus ― and they’re not afraid to use them on us.
A Cornell research study found that consumers felt more satisfaction buying “Grandma’s Zucchini Cookies” over just Zucchini Cookies. Sure, there’s a chance that the recipes with family names showing up on menus really did come from someone’s relative, but there’s also a chance that they didn’t.
Even Danny Meyer, famed NYC restaurateur, uses this technique at his Indian-fusion restaurant Tabla. One of the items on Tabla’s menu ― Boodie’s Chicken Liver Masala ― references the head chef’s mother, encouraging patrons to order the chicken liver (which they might not consider ordering if it weren’t “Boodie’s”).
This is not the only psychological work behind restaurant menus, but it’s one of the sneakiest because they’re tugging on our heart strings. Just think about that next time you order grandma’s famous pie when dining out.