Menu Psychology: The Science Behind Menu Engineering

 

There are multiple nuances that restaurants can use with their menus to coax customers into spending on more high-profit dishes. Read our resource article on the topic.

For years, restaurateurs have struggled with how to lay out a menu that is informative, readable, and — most importantly — profitable. While the debate on what does or does not work for certain is still raging, psychologists have conducted enough studies to conclusively arrive at a list of practices that every business should incorporate into their restaurant menu templates. With these subtle nods and nudges, you’re not only making strides toward profitability, but also customer satisfaction, giving you the best of both worlds.

Terminology

Menu theory splits foods into different categories to address them. There are:

  • “Stars” (high profit, high sales)
  • “Puzzles” (high profit, low sales)
  • “Plow horses” (low profit, high sales)
  • “Dogs” (low profit, low sales)

The general idea is that you want to show off your stars, improve your puzzles, keep your plow horses, and generally sell or drop your dogs. By figuring out which of your foods fall into these categories, organizing your menu becomes much, much easier.

If you don’t have sales figures for your menu items to categorize them, take some time to gather the data so you can make the most profitable decision when creating a layout.

What We Know

There are multiple nuances that restaurants can use with their menus to coax customers into spending on more high-profit dishes. First, refrain from using currency indicators like dollar signs. These symbols make customers feel like they’re spending more, even when they’re not. Similarly, avoid using prices that include 99 cents on the end, regardless of how affordable the product may be. Because of countless factors, including television infomercials, reading a price listed with .99 on the end is considered to be cheap and unsatisfying. Using .95 to indicate cents is much more successful than .99 since it feels “friendlier,” although many restaurants make the choice to do away with decimals all together and simply round to the best dollar. Regardless of your choice, make sure you at least don’t use price columns, which call attention to what you’re charging, and never use price trails (the “…” before a price), which are even worse.

Wording is equally important since the proper phrasing can make a customer’s mouth water before they even see their food, increasing your earnings by as much as 27%. Ethnic (“Italian”) or geographic (“Tuscany”) terms are especially helpful in conveying flavors or a sense of atmosphere in your restaurant as a whole…

READ ON: Menu Psychology: The Science Behind Menu Engineering

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