A restaurant menu can be so much more than just a random list of dishes. Often it’s a well-thought-out item that has taken into account a variety of visual elements including images, colour, design, pricing and item description. All of these are strategically combined to make your dining experience not only one of informed choice but one that’s advantageous to the venue as well.
Here are five restaurant menu tricks that may change the way you order your next meal!
Trick #1 – They use Photos to Stimulate a Response So That You’ll Order One (Or More!) Dishes
Photos of menu items are there for one main reason – to make you drool, and it’s one of the more popular sneaky menu tricks. Their inclusion is also based on a basic marketing principle – consumers pay more attention to advertising with photos, they notice colour photos before black and white ones, and they’ll look at colour photos more often and for longer periods of time.
The more vivid the photo and the more realistic it is, the more likely it’s going to stimulate your response. Including a sharp, well-styled photo alongside a menu item can also increase sales, because you’ll respond to the image like you would the food if it was on a plate in front of you. If you’re hungry, you’ll respond by thinking, I’ll have what’s in that photo!
It’s also about the number of photos on a menu. A menu crowded with photos can often lead to a perception of lower quality. Many high-end restaurants avoid photos altogether because it maintains a perceived level of quality and poshness!
Trick #2 – They Use Colour and Combinations of Colour to Motivate Behaviour
Another one of the tricks of the restaurant trade is the use of colour on menus. Colours have emotional and mental associations, different colours can motivate behaviour, and colour adds another layer of sensory stimulation and an association with our sense of smell as well as with our appetite.
Blue is a very soothing colour, so is often used to create a calming effect, green is most commonly found in nature so can allude to freshness, red signifies exuberance and is often used to encourage action, and yellow communicates optimism and happiness.
The combination of colours is also used to great effect in menu design. Bold primary colours like green, yellow and blue are especially appropriate for casual dining menus, subtle muted colours on menus can communicate a leisurely relaxed dining atmosphere, and the use of red, black and/or gold on menus can help to establish a stylish, upscale image.
Trick #3 – They Use Visual Tactics That Draw Your Eye to Certain Areas of the Menu
You know how supermarkets often put their most profitable items at eye level? Restaurants also design their menus to make the absolute most of your gaze. The upper right-hand corner of a menu is often called ‘prime real estate’. This is the area where a person will typically look first, and this is where the restaurant’s most profitable items usually go.
Another restaurant menu trick is what’s called the ‘golden triangle’, and it’s formed by how customers generally look at a menu. They’ll look at the top right, the middle and then the top left, so these are the areas where the restaurant’s most popular dishes are often found.
The sections of a menu are also important. Often referred to as the ‘first in show’ tactic, it relies on the fact that customers are more likely to order the top two menus items of a section first. And that’s where restaurants will often put the dishes that have the highest profit margins (the dishes that cost you more but cost the restaurant less to make).
Another trick of the restaurant trade is to separate or ‘box’ an item in order to pull your attention to it and thus help it sell. This is particularly evident on menus with Chef’s Specials, and it’s a ploy that helps you think with your eyes first, not your wallet!
Trick #4 – They Use Pricing Strategies To Trick You Into Thinking You’re Getting a Bargain
One of the other sneaky tricks of restaurants and their menus is not using dollar signs. Dollar signs make you think of money, but restaurants don’t want you to think of money, they want you to think of food! Removing dollar signs makes the prices seem as inconspicuous as possible, so you’ll often see a menu item worth $15 written as 15.00, or even just 15. Interestingly, written-out prices (“fifteen dollars”) can also encourage a customer to spend more.
The difference between pricing a menu item at $14.95 rather than $15 is also worth a whole lot more than just five cents. An item at $14.95 seems like a much better bargain, so restaurants wanting to appeal to a customer’s cost consciousness are less likely to round up their prices.
‘Anchoring’ items is another trick of the restaurant trade and involves putting a ridiculously expensive item on a menu with less expensive items so it seems like it’s better value. So for example, if you see a $20, $30 and $50 steak listed in the same area, paying $30 for a steak may not seem like a big deal, and it might persuade you to make a price jump up from the bargain $20 steak!
Trick #5 – They Use Long Descriptions With Lots of Adjectives to Increase the Perception of Quality
The longer the menu description, the more likely that dish will sell. This is because in the customer’s mind they are getting better value for their money. Customers also rated more thoroughly describe the food as tasting better, so would, therefore, rate ‘satin chocolate pudding’ way above plain old ‘chocolate pudding’.
Using ridiculous adjectives is a tried and true sneaky menu trick used by restaurants to make each dish sound as delicious as possible. Words like ‘sweet and creamy’ and ‘tender and juicy’ are more likely to entice you to buy the menu item because you can imagine how it actually tastes. Adjectives like ‘organic’ and ‘locally sourced’ are also more likely to sell a dish as these phrases increase the perception of the dish.
Enter any local Italian restaurant and you’ll be bombarded with beautifully sounding dishes like Ravioli Toscani and Lasagna di Nonna Ada. Using ethic language on dishes can make the food seem more authentic, and particularly in this second example, with the use of the words ‘Nonna Ada’. This dish is not only referencing an ‘authentic’ lasagne, but someone’s grandma whose name is Ada! Bellissimo!
Now that you know a few tricks of the trade, why not study our menu in more detail? Book your table at Moda Restaurant today!