With appetizers and side dishes, restaurant-goers have a hard time determining a good value. Subsequently, these items are more profitable for the establishment. The entrée is your main focus and that's what sets the standard. Adding mashed potatoes for an additional $4 may not seem like much when you're already paying $30 for a steak. Or, if you've passed up a shrimp entrée for $22, the shrimp cocktail appetizer may seem affordable at $9.00.
Jody Pennette, the founder of CB5 Restaurant Group, told Forbes in October 2011 that the prices on appetizers and side dishes had increased disproportionately to the raw food costs of these items. This gives restaurants a nice cash cow. "Restaurants keep mains as competitive as they can, knowing they have leeway in other parts of the menu, " Pennette added. Remember that the next time your order the $8 macaroni and cheese.
Another trick of the trade -- use mysterious ingredients that your average person doesn't eat or use. If you don't cook with lavender, use truffles or Beluga caviar in your recipes, you won't know what they should cost. The presence of that exotic element in your appetizer or side dish justifies the higher price, regardless of the quantity or quality used in the recipe.
So, skip the appetizer or extra side dish, and not only for cost reasons. Ordering them leaves you less likely to finish your entrée. That's leaving money on the table. Another thing leaving money on the table? Pasta.