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Travelers: Beware of Extra Menu Costs

Summer nights and summer vacations are ideal for dining out. But if consumers aren't careful, costs can really add up. Tips for sidestepping some of the ways restaurants get diners to spend more money.
Summer nights and summer vacations are ideal for dining out. But if consumers aren't careful, costs can really add up.  Tips for sidestepping some of the ways restaurants get diners to spend more money.

A recent study from Cornell University analyzed more than 200 menus and the selections of more than 300 diners. The research found that items with bold, highlighted, colored text, or items set apart from the rest of the menu in a text box, attracted more attention, and made diners more likely to order them.

And a few extra words in the description of a menu item, translated to 28 percent more sales, when a "seafood filet," for example, became a "succulent Italian seafood filet."   

Diners were also willing to pay an average of 12 percent more for that meal.

Less can also be more on a menu. A different Cornell study found diners tend to spend more money, if the price of a dish is listed without a dollar sign, or the word "dollars."

Diners should also ask about portion sizes. Sometimes appetizers may be enough for a meal at a lower cost, while entrees may simply be too much food, especially for travelers on the road who can't take leftovers with them.

For consumers looking to save on dining out, the slow summer month of august also brings restaurant week to a number of cities, where diners can sample new places with special, fixed price menus, and restaurants can fill tables with customers.


(Karin Caifa for CNN's Consumer Watch)     



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