Stanford’s Dan Jurafsky has written a book doing just that. In The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu, Jurafsky describes how he and some colleagues analyzed a database of 6,500 restaurant menus describing 650,000 dishes from across the U.S. Among their findings: fancy restaurants, not surprisingly, use fancier—and longer—words than cheaper restaurants do (think accompaniments and decaffeinated coffee, not sides and decaf). Jurafsky writes that “every increase of one letter in the average length of words describing a dish is associated with an increase of 69 cents in the price of that dish.” Compared with inexpensive restaurants, the expensive ones are “three times less likely to talk about the diner’s choice” (your way, etc.) and “seven times more likely to talk about the chef’s choice.”I love it when people measure things and turn up unexpected relationships.
In this instance, I am particularly intrigued by the trade-off implied in terms of choices. Making the personal choice versus choosing to let the chef make the choice. You technically have less freedom in the second scenario but by essentially outsourcing the decision to an experienced expert, perhaps the utility of reduced choice is more than compensated for by better choices.