I came across this article about how restaurants use psychology and menu design to increase customers’ selection of higher-margin items. Here’s the list:
List it first. Customers are most likely to pick the first item listed under a given category. If you want that chicken penne to fly, list it first under ‘Pasta’.
Highlight it. Draw customers’ attention by setting off visually what you want them to order. Draw a line around it, put a picture of it, or otherwise make it stand out.
Upsell it. Fast food outfits are masters of the upsell, with their combo meals and up-sizing ‘deals’. All-you-can-eat and unlimited refills are other common upsells. There’s a natural limit to how much people can consume and the marginal increase in price can easily exceed the marginal cost of goods sold.
Abstract its price. Customers want to know how much they’ll be spending, but you want to keep them focused on what they’ll be consuming. Avoid dollar signs, decimal points, and the dotted line from menu item to price.
Make it sound special. Here’s where marketing copy comes into play. If you elaborate and give (even perhaps irrelevant) detail, the menu items will seem more special and unique than they actually are. Details also help tell a story about it being so-and-so’s favorite or the house specialty, or about the ingredients being noteworthy in some way. Stories draw people in and make them feel more invested in and confident about their choices.