blackboard with menu specials
What you call a dish can have a big impact on its desirability and the customer experience.

When creating a menu, one could simply write out each food and beverage choice in plain language. Or, one could choose to describe each dish and cocktail option using language that is likely to elicit a more emotional response from potential customers. 

When the choice is framed thusly, the option becomes fairly obvious. And, restaurants can do the same type of framing in their menus. 

We’ve just hit on two important psychological ideas that can be used to increase the spend on each ticket: word choice and juxtaposition. These two ideas alone can add some punch to your sales and improve the customer experience. It all comes down to what’s happening in the customer’s mind when they dine in your establishment. 

First, let’s talk about word choices. 

Let’s say you have ‘Baked Chicken With The Vegetable Of The Day’ as a special on your menu. Doesn’t sound very appetizing, does it? 

Now, let’s say you think for a while about the dish and its ingredients. You decide to rename it ‘Succulent Garlic Butter Baked Chicken With Citrus-Roasted Asparagus.’ Sounds a lot different, huh? If we performed a test with half the menus in a restaurant using the first version of the dish name and the other half using the second version, which version do you think would bring in the most orders? Exactly. 

The point is that words can convey feelings, mood and personality. Similar to food, they can be bland (like the first version of the menu special). Or, they can be colorful and tasty (like the second version of the menu special). 

The word choices are important. If you think of a menu as an advertisement for your food choices, then the advice of legendary advertising executive David Ogilvy should be apropos: “The worst fault a salesman can commit is to be a bore.” Take pains to make your menu interesting and maybe even a little intriguing. 

What’s one way to make it interesting and intriguing? If possible, make reference to any ethnic connections that may lend themselves to your dish. In the above chicken dish example, maybe would could have said that the dish was inspired by Moroccan flavors (only say it if it’s true, of course). 

Another way to bring intrigue and interest to your menu is to use people’s names in the food and beverage choices. If a dessert recipe was handed down from your grandmother, by all means, please call the dish ‘Grandma’s Apple Pie.’ The names add a personal touch to the menu items. 

One word of caution: the menu items should be described in colorful ways without being maudlin. In other words, don’t go overboard and stay within your brand’s personality. 

Now, let’s discuss juxtaposition. 

The placement of items relative to one another is important when designing a menu. Many food businesses will use a tactic called ‘anchoring’ to make their prices seem reasonable. Even if they are reasonable, you always want the customer to believe the prices are reasonable. The two may not be the same. 

Anchoring works like this: you open a menu and see that the most expensive item is a $60 steak. This steak may seem overpriced or it may seem like a deal depending upon where you typically dine. 

Even if it seems overpriced, it serves as a sub-conscious ‘anchor’ for comparing the prices of the other, less-expensive steaks on the menu. All of a sudden, the $40 steak may appear to be a perfectly reasonable option even if you’ve never dreamed of spending so much on a meal before stepping foot into this particular steakhouse. 

One other note pertaining to anchor items: place higher profit menu choices near the anchor items in the menu. Why? The anchor items garner more attention because of the price. That means customer eyes will gravitate to that part of the menu and lead to more consideration of the nearby items. 

Want to learn how a point-of-sale system can help improve operations at your restaurant? Contact us today for a demonstration.

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