The next time you are musing over the menu at your favourite restaurant, pay close attention to the menu. Apparently there is a "science" to menu design and describing the dishes is just part of it. There's also pricing, organizing categories and placing the specific items in order. Not to mention typefaces and other details. "With the economy and the way the world is, the way a menu is laid out can determine whether you make it or break it," says Ezra Eichelberger, associate professor of menus and facilities at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. "A restaurant has to manipulate people into buying particular items. It's an important part of the profit." On a standard two-page menu, the eye first goes to the right side, just about center. Right there should be a profitable item, Eichelberger says. "Not an expensive or cheap item, but a profitable one." Eichelberger also says the top two items of any category and the last item are also popular, as people tend to recall what they see first or last. Often restaurants de-emphasize menu prices by listing them in a smaller typeface than the name of the item and its description. Or they may leave off the dollar sign. Another tactic: placing the price after a tempting description of the item rather than after the item itself. "Spaghetti, $14" sounds steep and not very appealing, but "Spaghetti with grilled sardines, pine nuts, currants and wild spinach, $14" sounds worth it. But the food also has to sound good. There's "pasta with vegetables," and then there's "hand-cut pasta with corn, wild mushrooms and sage brown butter." There's "duck with string beans," and then there's "duck confit with haricots verts, crumbled potato, hazelnuts and candied kumquats."
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