A recent article in the Guardian highlights how restaurants manipulate consumers into buying their more profitable meals and drinks. In an excerpt from William Poundstone’s book “Priceless: the Myth of Fair Value” the article demonstrates how a restaurant’s menu design can entice us to order a more expensive meal over better bargain food being offered. It is certainly not unexpected that a restaurant would use clever marketing to make more from its customers, but it is interesting how in the course of a nice evening out we somewhat unknowingly receive numerous cues from both the restaurant and the waitstaff to spend just a bit more.
In a recent article in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, social psychologists Seiter and Weger find that waiters can actually increase the tip they receive from customers by complimenting their meal choice. Although previous research has found that the gender of the server can influence tips received, this study did not find gender to influence the amount. Instead, the researchers found that when a generalize compliment was paid to customers their tips increased roughly 3% versus the no-compliment conditions. However, as the size of the dinner party increased, the effect of the compliment seemed to decrease with large dinner parties showing no change in tipping when given compliments. One interesting thing the authors noted, was that of the waiters and waitresses used, one waitress actually received fewer tips when complimenting. The authors present a few possible reasons why individual differences may influence the effectiveness of compliments and increasing tip size. But, there are probably many reasons why different waiters may have varying levels of success with such a technique. How do you feel when a food server compliments your meal choice? What other subtle techniques could be being used by waiters/waitresses to get their customers to tip more?