A menu is the most important internal marketing tool a restaurant has—virtually 100% of it is read by each and every guest. Menus send out signals that can affect how customers perceive your operation. It can influence what they order and how much they spend.
The job of a resaturant menu is to sell the items. For this reason it is important to include information beyond item and price. A menu should function as a tour guide revealing what a restaurant is most proud of and what differentiates it from its competitors. You may think, “The customer is in my restaurant. They’ll buy something and then they’ll know how fresh it is.” But that isn’t necessarily the case. If they came in for pizza tonight, they may not realize that the burgers and chickens are fresh, never frozen, that the marinara sauce is homemade or that the fries are cut from real potatoes in the kitchen. These simple facts make a difference to how people feel about your food and how they feel about spending money at your restaurant. Tell them.
Another important element to consider in menu design is placement. When items are placed on the menu affect their visibility. A Wall Street Journal retail report found that when a customer notices specific merchandise, they are much more likely to purchase it. Adapting this theory to a menu, the design can have an effect on what customers order.
Just like advertising in the newspaper, the upper right-hand corner is the prime spot where readers’ eyes automatically go first. Think about what items you want to highlight. By bringing attention to these items, you may increase their rate of sale.
William Poundstone wrote a book The Myth of Fair Value. He claims that a menu item’s position within a list can also affect sales. People tend to remember the top two items on a list and the bottom item. He also suggests placing, “high-end specialties on the inside right page, toward the middle, and move the burgers and sandwiches from that spot to the back page. “
Poundstone also says that a customer’s eyes generally drift down and to the middle. This is a good place to feature the most expensive items. Even though many may pass on this particular dish because of the high price, you can put other popular (and fairly expensive) menu items around your most expensive item. The contrast in prices can make people more likely to buy the items you place around the most expensive offering.
Another suggestion is to vary the depth of description. According to this theory, if everything sounds equally delicious, then everything sounds equally bland.
None of these ideas is meant to trick the customer. We are too smart and too honest to try to deceive customers in any way. But it is important to consider these valuable truths.