Can the words used on a menu be a sign of how expensive a restaurant is?

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd October 2014
Long words to describe a dish can be a sign of an expensive restaurant. That’s according to Dan Jurafsky in his hugely entertaining book, The Language of Food - A Linguist Reads the Menu. language of foodDan lives in San Francisco and is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius Grant”. He is a professor of linguistics at Stanford University where he studies social and behavioural linguistics. Dan explained that, with every extra letter used in describing a dish, the average price of the dish increases by 42p. In a study of 6,500 menus Jurafsky found that the words ‘exotic’ and ‘spices’ also raise the price but words like ‘mouth-watering’ and ‘crispy’ tend to feature more on cheap menus. Dan's research shows that for each vaguely positive word such as ‘delicious’ or ‘tasty’, the average price of the dish comes down. If your menu has to specify that your crabmeat is ‘real’ or that your prawns are ‘fresh’, you’re probably not dining at Le Gavroche. prawns Choice is also key. The more choice on the menu, the cheaper the establishment. Chinese takeaways may have menus six pages long whereas a Michelin star restaurant may only have six choices on the entire menu. Some high-end establishments have even dispensed with menus altogether, offering blind tasting instead. Another hallmark of an expensive restaurant is telling you the source of the product for example, ‘boiled Colchester Blue lobster’ would be favoured instead of simply ‘boiled lobster.’ "Our research found that the mention of provenance is 15 times more frequent in expensive than cheap restaurants," said Dan. "And it looks like that ratio may be even higher in the UK.” an-incredible-electric-blue-lobster-caught-in-the-uk-pic-solent-144214462In The Language of Food, Dan opens a window onto everything from the modern descendants of ancient recipes to the hidden persuasion in restaurant reviews. Combining history with linguistic analysis, Jurafsky uncovers a global atlas of pre-modern culinary influence. Dan's unique study reveals how everything from medieval meal order to modern menu design informs the way we drink and dine today. Enjoy! By Tom Evans

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd October 2014

Can the words used on a menu be a sign of how expensive a restaurant is?