Restaurants are businesses. Their incomes come from what they sell to you and their main selling tool is their menu — which is targeted not just at your stomach, but also to your mind. It’s the main way a restaurant tries to influence your choice of what to order.
The way a menu is written and laid out can make or break a restaurant. It’s in the restaurant’s best interest to really pay attention to its menu – a redesign can improve sales by an average of 2 to 10 percent Maui restaurants.
Restaurants hope that a magical brew of prices; superlative or descriptive words; and varying fonts, sizes, and colors will play with your brain cells and nudge you toward making the choices they would like you to make.
Tip 1: “Eye magnets” like colored boxes, larger fonts, and icons or symbols are used to help direct your gaze. Bold typefaces grab attention and are designed to steer you to what they want you to order. Well thought out use of eye magnets can increase restaurant sales up to 10 percent.
Tip #2: You’ll likely find a restaurant’s most profitable items or specials — the things they want you to order — on the top right of the front page of a two-page menu or the top half of the page on a single page menu. Because most people don’t “read” a menu but rather “scan” it with their eyes, it makes sense to put the items the restaurant wants to sell where your eye goes first.
On a two-page menu people tend to look at the right page first, go back and read the left page, and then go back to the top right to take another look. Attention fades by the time we get to the middle and bottom of the right page. That’s where you’ll usually find items that aren’t marked up or ones the restaurant knows will sell anyway. Items they don’t want to feature — stand-bys like burgers or eggs – usually go below the high profit items or on the back of a three or four page menu.
Tip #3: Prices on the menu are often shown without dollar signs. They’re not there because they act as a subconscious reminder that you’re about to part with your hard-earned money. Restaurants don’t want you to think about money when you order. A study found that customers spend less when prices are listed with dollar signs rather than without them. Even the word or symbol for dollar can trigger “the pain of paying.”
The absence of dollar signs — many places will eliminate cents, too — makes menu prices seem more friendly. A shorter numerical price point is most appealing, so chicken that costs twelve dollars will mostly likely be shown as 12 instead of $12 or $12.00. Using a dash or period after the numbers is more of a design choice than a psychological one, but numbers followed by nothing is most common.