(CBS) — You open your menu and you order your food, but have you chosen what you really want to eat — or what the restaurant wants you to eat?
As CBS 2’s Marissa Bailey reports, there is a surprising science behind the design of menus.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Cool Lake Breeze Next 3 Days
When Chris Clark eats out, he says deciding what’s for dinner is mostly a matter of going with his gut.
“It really is the mood of the day. Do I want fish or do I want steak?” Clark says.
But according to experts, the design of the menu itself can affect what we’re in the mood for. Marketing expert Brian Wansink of Cornell University says the layout is critical.
“It determines what we look at first, it determines largely what we choose, but it also ends up determining how much we like the food,” he says.
Research shows that the first thing you see on the menu is what you’re likely to order, and descriptions are everything. Words like “succulent” or “creamy” actually have an impact on diners.READ MORE: How Will Chicago Police Hold Officers Accountable on New Search Warrant Rules? City Officials Sidestepped The Question
Restaurant owner Mike O’Brien adjusts his menu three or four times a year and says he has a strategy.
“We put boxes around certain items that we want to highlight and that are our signature items or things that have a better gross profit,” he says.
And, depending on how it’s designed, Prof. Wansink says a menu can work against your waistline.
“If it’s set up wrong and it pushes sort of the high calorie entrees and really sort of fat appetizers, it can cause us to eat really poorly,” he says.
So, how do you get past the marketing to get the best value and have a healthy meal?
“Avoid looking at those items are like in your face and kind of read between the lines and look at the ones that are in the sort of the smaller font,” Wansink says.MORE NEWS: Lightfoot, CPD Announce Changes To Search Warrant Policies; Police To Begin Tracking Wrong Raids Resulting From Faulty Information
Something to watch: Many menus won’t have prices lined up in a column. That’s so it’s less easy for diners to compare prices.