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How Menu Design Can Make or Break a Restaurant

Published By: Leon Tuberman  -  Friday, March 24, 2017

Filling the restaurant dining chairs in any eatery is no easy task. Instead of just focusing on great food, restaurateurs have to worry about marketing, promotions, checking inventory and a variety of other hassles. One thing that many of these culinary entrepreneurs don't consider, though, is menu design. This might seem like something that's not important. After all, some establishments have plain white menus with items listed in black and white. Without focusing on menu design, however, an eatery could be losing money.

Everything Matters with Menu Design

The one thing that decides whether a restaurant survives or not is profitability, and to achieve this, it's necessary to have each patron spend as much as possible. While there are a variety of ways to accomplish this, menu design is one of the most important. Slight variations or psychological cues can subconsciously influence a restaurant booth dweller to spend more. In fact, just about everything related to the design matters.

What nuances on a menu could bring in higher profits? Color, for one. The color green makes people think of freshness, and the color orange ramps up their appetite. How about making people spend more even if they aren't thinking “fresh” or “I'm starving”? Well, studies have shown that removing dollar signs from menus makes patrons spend more. When it comes to squeezing more profit from the occupants of restaurant dining chairs, literally every aspect of the menu counts.

People Want to Feel Like They're Getting a Deal
Great food often demands a higher price, but there are some consumers out there who will simply overlook greatness if they aren't getting a deal. While removing dollar signs from the menu can get patrons' minds off of money, there's no harm in going the extra step. In fact, the ticket average at every bar table could go up simply by planting a decoy.

What is a decoy? It's a food item on the menu with a relatively high price. This item should be placed near the top of the menu, so it's the first thing consumers view. Once they make their way down the menu and see lower prices, they'll feel as if they're getting a deal. Additionally, having a few high-priced items on the menu gives the impression of high-quality food.

Menus Are Marketing's Last Stand
If someone sits down in a restaurant dining chair, some form of that eatery's marketing paid off. Whether it was increasing word of mouth or running a sponsored ad on Facebook, something worked. This might seem like the end of the battle, but there's still one marketing tool left in the game: the menu. In fact, it's the last chance a restaurant has at increasing their profit.

Maybe a customer just thought of getting a chicken dinner, but if the menu is ordered sequentially, with appetizers first, entrees next and dessert and drinks last, people are more likely to engage in the full dining experience. Is there one alcoholic beverage that's the pride and joy of the place? Showcase it in vibrant colors “decked to the nines.” The menu is as much a marketing tool as email and SEO.

Getting each restaurant dining chair full on any given night is the first battle, but keeping those patrons coming back is a close second. By focusing on menu design, an eatery can do just that. The menu can do everything from making someone think they got a deal to influencing them to buy a high-priced item. In the end, science proves that this extra effort pays off.


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