The Psychology Of Menu Making: Half The Effort 2x The Sales.

The amount of effort you put into menu engineering is directly tied to your sales success.

If your restaurant is having a little trouble making sales, lack of time committed to consumer psychology might be involved. If your restaurant is doing well without the use of it, you could probably be making double the profit you are now. There is no cap to success. These tips below will help you simply and effectively make your menu more intuitive, simple, and organized.

1.) Organization and categorization

One of the most basic rules of menu design is often ignored. Keep like items near each other on the menu. Section it out by food type. The order of the categories is also important. Appetizers, soups, burgers, pizzas and desserts should stay together. In the same vein, you should have your courses in proper order on the physical menu. Appetizers before main courses, before desserts and sides etc. Otherwise people may be tempted to skip an appetizer if they see a large main meal on the menu first.

2.) Poor use of space

Use only the front and back of the menu to display information about the restaurant. The interior is for the food items and other nutritional information. Including information such as opening and closing hours, services, history, address and more is a good idea. Customers may sometimes take back menus as souvenirs, especially if they are not local to the area. A good example of how to use space can be found here.

3.) The menu features too many dishes

We’ve all been there: sitting at a restaurant with a huge menu, not sure what half of it is and/or how to decide between 4 different chicken dishes. Sometimes, this large menu concept can work, but these are exceptions to the rule, and are usually large chains capable of keeping that amount of fresh stock on hand. Too many complicated dishes on your menu can cause inconsistency issues with ingredients, availability and overall food quality. A large menu can be formatted like this, to look a little more appealing to the eye.

4.) Use the golden triangle

According to an article through LinkedIn, when we look at a menu, our eyes typically move to the middle first before traveling to the top right corner and then, finally, to the top left. This has been dubbed the ‘Golden Triangle’ by menu engineers, and these three areas are where you’ll find the dishes with the highest profit margins. This graphic below via “MenuCoverDepot” illustrates that.

5.) Watch for negative space

If a menu is crammed with text, the eye will naturally be drawn to any open spaces. Menu designers can use this to their advantage. Usually, you will find items with the largest profit margins are often set in their own space, away from most other text boxes or photos.

6.) Use photos, but sparingly.

You should definitely use photos of your signature dishes on your menu. But, photos not only take up a lot of space, they also are very eye catching. While this is great for single items you want to highlight, overwhelming a menu with photos of each item puts you back at the drawing board. Nothing stands out among a sea of photos just as if you had none at all. This article describes a similar finding with children eating something they could see in a photo, but not read the actual ingredients.

7.) Don’t list prices (or at least avoid $$$)

It’s well established humans make judgements very quickly. Everything from people, places and things. Prices are no exception. There are a few ways you can manipulate this mindset. By placing your highest priced item on top, followed by less expensive options directly below, you can have your customer believing the meal below it is a great deal comparatively. Also, never use dollar signs on your menu. Simply put 19.99 without the symbol. This helps distance the thought of money from a customers mind. Here you can read more tips about price placement from the New York Times.

8.) The cover is key

Make your menus cover a great first impression. Make it colorful or bold. Make it really represent your brand. Make your businesses name bold and large on the cover as well as any contact information. A business people love but don’t know where to find isn’t helpful. An example of this can be found here on our site.

9.) Online functionality is important.

Simply taking a photo of your menu and uploading it to your website isn’t enough. At bare minimum your menu should be a pdf that is easily read and opened by all operating systems and web browsers. Ideally though, it should be interactive and support online ordering. Beyond that, it should look and feel like you put as much effort into it as your physical menu. No broken links, wonky photos, or otherwise unfunctional items. This article from Restaurant Hospitality explains how functionality comes first, even before artistic vision sometimes.

10.) Imaginative word use (when appropriate).

Using words like “freshly-picked” or “hand-wrapped” invokes a feeling in a customer as opposed to a bland reading of a simple menu. Similarly, nostalgia can be utilized in this way. Naming something “Grandma’s Warm Blueberry” is very different than saying simply “Blueberry Pie”. It has a descriptor word, and invokes a feel a broad group of people can identify with. Don’t do this with every item, it would be far too wordy; it also would just begin to annoy your customers as an obvious marketing ploy to upsell them. The best advertising is the type your customer doesn’t even know is happening. This Wired UK article explains some other word choice induced psychology concepts.

Overall, while it might take some time and planning to correctly make a fully designed menu, in the long run it will end up making you twice the amount you spent in time and money creating it. You can see an example of a fully conceptualized menu here.

5 thoughts on “The Psychology Of Menu Making: Half The Effort 2x The Sales.”

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