From overpriced appetizers to “premium” entrees that fail to deliver, these are the dishes restaurants use to boost their profits at your expense. Learn which seemingly luxurious items are cheap to produce and which classic menu tricks to watch out for. Don’t let your next meal out leave a bad taste in your mouth – or a dent in your budget. 

Pasta Dishes

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Pasta dishes, especially simple ones like spaghetti and meatballs, are considered overpriced in restaurants. The ingredients are relatively inexpensive, with dried pasta, tomato sauce, and ground meat, all at a relatively low cost. The preparation is also fairly straightforward. Despite this, restaurants often charge a significant markup on these dishes. 

Guacamole

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While avocados are expensive depending on the season and location, the other ingredients in guacamole are generally inexpensive, and the preparation is simple and quick. Despite this, many restaurants charge a premium for guacamole as an add-on. This charge can sometimes be as much as $5-10 for a small portion. 

Bottled Water

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The markup on bottled water can often be 1000% or more above the wholesale cost. Restaurants pay less than a dollar for a bottle of water but may charge between $3 and $5. The environmental impact of bottled water also makes it a rip-off. 

Truffle-Infused Anything

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Truffles are expensive and rare, but many restaurants use synthetic truffle oil or essence, which is much cheaper and often contains no real truffle. These artificial flavors mimic the aroma of truffles but lack the depth of flavor of the real thing. Common examples of this include truffle fries, truffle mac and cheese, or truffle-infused oils. 

Edamame as an Appetizer

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Edamame is a common appetizer in Japanese restaurants and is often seen as over-priced. The cost of frozen edamame is relatively low, with minimal preparation. However, restaurants usually charge $5-10 dollars for a small portion. Restaurants justify the price because it’s a healthy, trendy appetizer, but that doesn’t stop diners from feeling like it’s a rip-off. 

Chicken Wings

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Chicken wings used to be cheap bar food, but not anymore. Their popularity has increased their cost, but not enough to justify the price increase. A typical order of wings (8-10 pieces) can cost $10-15 or more in restaurants, despite wings being the cheaper part of the chicken. 

Bread Baskets

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Charging for bread baskets has become controversial among diners. Traditionally, bread has been offered as a complimentary starter to the meal, but some restaurants now charge around $3-8 for this service. Some restaurants justify the charge by providing “artisanal” brads or a variety of options, but many feel like this doesn’t make up for the charge. 

Breakfast Eggs and Pancakes

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Breakfast eggs and pancakes are considered overpriced in restaurants due to what they’re made from. Eggs, flour, milk, and butter are all relatively inexpensive, especially when bought in bulk. The preparation also requires little to no effort. Despite this, prices for breakfast plates can range from $10-20 or more – a huge markup. 

Vegetarian / Vegan Options

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Vegan and vegetarian options are often criticized for being overpriced, especially when they’re priced the same as meat dishes. Although the ingredients in most vegetarian dishes are generally less expensive than meat, many restaurants charge the same price or only slightly less. This pricing strategy takes advantage of the growing demand for plant-based options. 

Sliders

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Sliders typically contain a fraction of the ingredients used in a regular burger but are often priced high. A plate of 3-4 sliders can cost as much or more than a full-sized burger despite using less meat and other ingredients. Restaurants market sliders as a fun, sharable appetizer, using this to justify higher prices. 

Soup of the Day

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Soups are a great way to use up leftover ingredients and reduce waste. However, restaurants often charge high prices for what is essentially a cheap dish. Soups contain inexpensive base ingredients like stock, vegetables, and sometimes small amounts of meat or seafood. The preparation is simple and can be done in large batches. However, many restaurants charge between $5 and $10 for a bowl of soup. 

Kids’ Menu Items

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Kids’ menu items are typically simplified versions of adult meals in smaller portions. Despite this, kids’ meals are priced higher compared to their cost of production—a kid’s meal could cost up to $12! 

Desserts

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Desserts, especially simple ones like ice cream sundaes, are often marked up in restaurants. A sundae might cost $1-2 in ingredients but could be priced at $8-12 or more in a restaurant. Restaurants justify the high prices by presenting them as a luxury or indulgence or by using terms like “homemade” or “artisanal.” Some establishments may use higher-quality or speciality ingredients, which could justify the price increase, but not always. 

“Deconstructed” Versions of Classic Dishes

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“Deconstructed” dishes are where classic recipes are broken down into parts and presented in a new way, which is often seen as an overpriced gimmick. These dishes are typically priced higher despite containing the same or fewer ingredients. The justification is based on the dish’s creativity or artistic presentation. However, many diners feel like they’re paying more for less actual food and a concept rather than substance. 

Lobster Mac and Cheese

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Lobster mac and cheese combines an inexpensive food (macaroni and cheese) with a luxury ingredient (lobster), allowing restaurants to charge premium prices. However, the amount of lobster in the dish is minimal and doesn’t justify the price. Lobster mac and cheese can be priced from $20 to $30, and many diners feel like they’re paying for the price of luxury rather than anything substantial. Additionally, some restaurants use lower-quality lobster or even imitation lobster to maximize profits.

18 Foods You Should Eat Every Day

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There are many foods, such as leafy greens, berries, and whole grains, which are full of things like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help your body function at its best. Experts recommend you should eat these 18 foods every day to live a healthier life.

Read: 18 Foods You Should Eat Every Day

15 Foods You Shouldn’t Eat After 50

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Age is just a number, but not regarding eating habits. The older you grow, the more your body needs nutritious food to stay fit and healthy. While there are many things you’re encouraged to eat, when you cross 50, your go-to foods can’t look the same as they once were. Your body is changing, and so should your eating habits. 

Read: 15 Foods You Shouldn’t Eat After 50

18 Ultra-Processed Foods You Should Avoid

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Ultra-processed foods are full of additives, preservatives, and unhealthy fats that are bad for your body. While they may be tempting, the long-term effects of eating these foods can include obesity, heart disease, and other chronic health problems. Avoid these 18 ultra-processed foods to live a healthier life.

Read: 18 Ultra-Processed Foods You Should Avoid

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