Monday, March 4, 2024

Sneaky Ways McDonald’s Tries To Get You To Order More Food

And you thought popping into McDonald’s meant grabbing a quick bite. With billions upon billions served, about one percent of the entire population of earth visits the golden arches every singe day, which translates to more than two billion customers every month. There must be a reason why so many people are hooked. But there is also some sneaky ways McDonald’s tries to get you to order more food.

Behavioral Economics took a close look at some of the subliminal tactics McDonald’s uses to lure customers into buying more food. Here are 5 of them that might (but shouldn’t) surprise you, because you’ve likely been the unknowing victim of at least one.

Visual Cues

McDonald’s uses animation on their menu, basically telling you where to look so they can upsell you on new items. Behavioral Economics explains the effect really well:

Our eyes detect colour, shape, texture, detail really well when we are directly gazing at something. The magno cells in our retina are weak at detecting these features in our periphery, in favour of a strong ability to detect motion (to helping us spot danger before it’s too late).

The animation on these screens take advantage of this fact to involuntarily capture our attention and activate a saccade (eye movement) towards the target (products that aren’t the traditional items). The result? We scan a wider variety of options when choosing and these naturally fall into our consideration set as a result — helping to fill the working memory ‘basket’ with new options we might not have considered before.

Here’s a video demonstrating that exact explanation.

There’s also the fact that the menus are specifically architected to get you to order higher-priced items. According to Behavioral Economics, approximately 30 percent of the digital screens are filled with the new Signature meals, while traditional options now take up just 10–15 percent of the total menu display space.

Cheap Food

Yep, this one is probably the most obvious way McDonald’s gets us to load up on more items: they price their food really low, so even if you don’t go for the high priced items, you’ll feel like you can afford it because of all the money you’ve saved!

Healthy By Association

McDonald’s does a good job of strategically placing photos of salads and water and other healthy items to make it feel like you’re eating healthy, when in reality you’re probably eating a full day’s calorie quota.

Behavioral Economics points out that “even with just a single healthy option shown on the menu…customers perceive the overall ‘health-index’ of the menu to be better, and therefore feel less guilt buying the items that best fulfill their desires.”

Apple Dessert GIF by McDonald's CZ/SK - Find & Share on GIPHY

Signage Near Entrance

It’s been shown that the first image you see upon entering a restaurant will likely stick in your head, prompting you to want to order it. According to BE, “Studies have shown in the US that when people pick up food from a buffet station, 70% of the time they fill their plates with the first 3 items they come to. Why? All subsequent choices are compared to the initial reference point.”

No Cashiers 

Self-serve kiosk stations or mobile apps mean we’re likely to order more of everything we want without the worry of judgement.


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