Thursday, September 17, 2009

The science of menu.

How to sell your menu if you're running a restaurant:

Subliminal message
"The placement is very important," agrees restaurant consultant Isidore Kharasch, president of Chicago-based Hospitality Works, citing the example of a microbrewery that came to him for help with its menu. "They were selling mostly hamburgers and sandwiches, and the chef wanted to sell more of the higher-end items," Kharasch recounts. He recommended that the restaurant place the high-end specialties on the inside right page, toward the middle, and move the burgers and sandwiches from that spot to the back page. "We increased the font in that area [with the specialties]. Then on the back, we reduced the font for the burgers and sandwiches. It was a very subtle thing. In the first week [after the change], the average check went from $16 to $21. It's not that people were looking to order sandwiches and burgers, but people were being forced to order them." (not sure if 'forced' is the right word or even the right thing to do, but design does guide choices and that's the fundamental truth).

Avoid a split-personality design
Menus should be graphically exciting, but first and foremost they should be functional, says Lansing. "We want our menus to be spectacular, but we also want them to be good business tools," he says. "Some people want to create the coolest menu that ever existed." In their quest to be creative, "they forget that people might not be able to read the menu." In other words, forget about winning design awards; concentrate on winning customers. (The contention of doing what's nice and what's right is neverending. While I do not want to undermine the importance of winning awards since those metals and plates are really what some creative people live for but all I'm saying is, please consider the priorities).

Word association
And certain words have more selling power than others. For example, "marinated," "roasted" or "cooked in our wood-fire oven" have more allure than "fried," says Kharasch. What if the item is fried? "Then you can say that it's hand-battered. That way you've told the customers the item is fried, without telling them the item is fried." You'll also want to direct customers to high-profit, high-quality items by making the descriptions of those dishes more appealing than others, says Paul. "You should have a continuum of appeal. Not everything should sound equally delicious. . . . Having everything sound equally attractive doesn't help the guest any more than having everything sound equally bland."

Number neuroses
There's also an art to presenting menu prices. Among the mistakes Kharasch has seen are menus that align prices in a column on the right, leading customers to use the "shop-by-price method." "No matter how nice the descriptions, it forces customers to look at the prices first. The eye tends to go straight to the prices," he says. "And don't put the prices from most expensive to least expensive. People figure that out quickly." Paul agrees that the placement of the price is critical. "I like to position the price at the end of the description, in the same type, the same boldness and without a dollar sign. This approach helps the reader focus on the product — not the price. Even the dollar sign makes the guest a little more aware of the price."

Analyzing your menu's strengths
Customers spend less than two minutes perusing a bill of fare, estimates Main. If a menu is designed correctly, it can have a significant impact during those few critical minutes. "The menu is the purest expression of marketing," he says. "It's your blueprint for profitability."

Italic bold mine and the above is just the best bits, original post here.

More often than not, we always take existing marketing communication tools for granted, looking at just how we want to innovate by doing new things. Society evolves on a natural cycle following the change of nature. Shouldn't our daily mechanisms too? To the most overlooked item, we should really consider putting more emphasis on it and put depth into it. No doubt sliced bread is one of the best inventions of mankind. But true innovation comes from how we slice it.

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