How To Sell a $20 Burger


burger menu

An upscale hotel in Amsterdam sells a hamburger for about $20. That probably isn’t much out of line with similar meals at big-city hotels, but this establishment uses an interesting technique to make its prices seem a bit more justifiable.

What’s their secret?

The restaurant embeds their menus in a very heavy block of transparent plastic. (Imagine a brick made out of Lucite, Perspex, or Plexiglass.)

There are no doubt practical reasons for this choice – keeping the menus clean, preventing them from blowing off outside tables, and so on.

But, there’s some psychology in this practice, too. A 2010 study found that “haptic sensations” affected how subjects perceived content.

Specifically, the scientists had subjects evaluate a job candidate by viewing a resume either on a light clipboard or a heavy one. The subjects who had the heavy clipboards rated the applicant as “better overall” and as “displaying more serious interest in the position.”

It’s not a big leap to think that a menu in a heavy block of plastic might add some “weight” to its offerings compared to a thin piece of paper.

Go for Gravitas

Large Restaurant Menu
While the transparent block is a bit unusual, many expensive restaurants do place their menus in large, heavy covers that often resemble leather-bound folios. Both the weight and the tactile aspects of expensive materials may carry over to the perception of the menu offerings and their prices.

Paper: The Haptic Advantage

The haptic effects of physical materials may be one explanation of why paper content is often more emotionally impactful than digital content. (See Does Paper Outweigh Digital?)

In these days when most business proposals and similar documents are transmitted electronically, there could be an advantage in presenting the old-fashioned way. In my earlier article, I suggest a few ways to use this research:

1. A heavier document will create a more serious impression than a lighter one.

2. Since tactile sensations so clearly influence our subconscious perceptions, other characteristics of a printed piece – rigidity, texture, embossing, die cuts, etc. can all have an effect.

3. If you can’t afford a heavy printed piece, have the reader hold a brick while viewing your information. (That’s a joke, but only because handing a sales prospect a brick might seem a bit strange. The experiments show that even an unrelated tactile sensation can influence behavior.)


business card brainBusiness cards normally weigh next to nothing. But, the card I describe in Sensory Marketing in a Business Card embodies both weight and unusual tactile sensations – it’s made from unusually thick card stock and has embossing on the bottom that isn’t visible on the top.

So, don’t be afraid to add some weight to your own persuasive content.

And the Burger Itself?

The burger, by the way, was delicious. And the accompanying fries were excellent.

Even on the latter, the hotel did a bit of priming – the rectangular container the fries were served in set high expectations by using all four sides to describe how the potatoes were sourced and other facts to make a simple product seem special.

And, of course, we know expectations influence the actual experience.

Apparently, all this priming worked – on me, at least! Clever neuromarketers, those Dutch, even if they do serve mayonnaise with french fries

Related: The Neuromarketing of Burgers

  1. Joost Fromberg says

    Great article Roger! Great to see you at Conversion Camp!

    1. Roger Dooley says

      Likewise, Joost, thanks! And I’m starting to like mayo on my fries! 🙂

  2. Bill says

    +1 for mayo on fries

  3. sana says

    Good and informative articles, I wish you could write an article on how to sell burgers online :_) hehe.. with or without mayo and fries.It will have a good market, right.

  4. Rocco M.Singh says

    Delicious Blog Roger. You know how to make small unnoticed things interesting.

  5. CL says

    What a BS post. If McDonalds placed their menu on iPads (which are heavy) would it make their burgers any better? No. Did the makers (quite possibly the head chef) of the restaurant consider marketing when making those decisions? No. They were probably focused on creating a nice dining experience and thought that a thick menu would do better. Compare this to… lets say a cheap Chinese place where the menu is a brochure. Not so nice, huh? I wouldn’t say that it was good marketing that resulted in the delicious burger. I’d say it was careful planning and crafting an enjoyable dining experience that made the burger delicious. The menu was a part of that.

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