You may think that creating a great menu comes down to quality graphics and legible food descriptions. While these factors do matter, designing an optimized menu is much more involved than this. So much so, in fact, that the process has its own name. Menu engineering is the practice of analyzing and strategically designing your menu to maximize restaurant profits. By highlighting your most popular and profitable items with menu psychology techniques, menu engineering allows you to subtly sway customers into purchasing more profitable meals. Let’s take a look at how you can develop a menu that will skyrocket your sales!
Emphasize Your Most Profitable Menu Items
One of the most important tactics to employ when engineering your menu is to inconspicuously direct your customers' attention towards your high profit items. Several ways to accomplish this is to include a photo, graphic, colored box, or border around your big ticket dishes. You may also want to consider placing items you want to sell in the center, the top right corner, and the top left corner. These areas are usually the first place people look when viewing a menu. Finally, in each section, you’ll want to position your most profitable dishes at the top of each list, and one at the bottom. Studies show that restaurant-goers tend to notice and order either the top two or three items or the last item in each section much more frequently than items placed in between.
Include Decoy Items
Another way to engineer your menu to encourage more sales is by employing what’s known as a “decoy” item. This is an item that has the likelihood of coming across as overly expensive to customers. By placing a decoy in certain sections of your menu, it could make reasonably priced items even more attractive to the diner. This also works with pricier items as well, as it may skew customers into thinking that they are getting a better deal in comparison to the decoy.
Bracketing is also a great tool to optimize your menu. This means advertising two portion sizes for the same menu item, without including descriptions of the actual serving sizes. Obviously, the large option will be listed at a higher price, while the small portion option will cost significantly less. The customer won’t be privy to the actual difference between the portion sizes, but the small option will seem to be the best bang for their buck, merely because it costs less. However, this tactic is frequently used when the smaller portion is what you’d ideally like to sell in reality. Bracketing encourages people to order the smaller item, since it gives them the impression that they are getting a better deal in comparison to ordering the larger portion.
Proper Pricing Format
It’s very important to display your pricing properly as well, which involves using the nesting method. This means subtly listing the price after each meal description in the same size font, so customers’ eyes glide right over the price instead of focusing on it. There are also several things you want to avoid. This includes ending your prices with “.99”, which can give customers the impression of cheapness and low quality. You also want to steer clear of dollar signs. These symbols remind customers that they’re spending money, or even give individuals the feeling that they are spending even more than they are. Finally, price trails, or dotted lines that connect your menu items to their price, are also a big “no-no”. This diverts focus towards the price instead of the dish itself.
Oftentimes, it’s lost on many just how much psychology, planning and design goes into producing optimized menus. A good amount of people rarely notice the factors mentioned above, and because of this, may argue that taking such measures in producing a menu are arbitrary at best. In reality, it is because these tactics are so under-the-radar that they are useful and effective. By utilizing these subliminal menu engineering techniques, customers are much more likely to be swayed into ordering certain items, and being none the wiser!
Written by Omega High Impact Print Solutions' Digital Marketing Specialist, Emily Steel