The same psychology that allows descriptive text, demands that descriptions be truthful and accurate. If the region of a product is specified, the product must come from that region. Co-branded items cannot replace other brands. Items labeled “crisp” impose customer expectations that must be met. Beyond the ethical and legal implications, failure to meet customer expectations can do more harm than if the description was not used in the first place.
Another study found that customers read menus for just 109 seconds on average. Having less than two minutes to promote the offers has implications for menu design.
First, no matter what type or style of menu is designed, it should be clean, easy to read, and as concise as possible. This will reduce the time it takes to scan each menu item and increase the likelihood that customers will see each item.
Second, you’ll need to help the customer find the items that you want to sell (profitable) and that you think they want to buy (popular). Never assume that the customer will find them on their own. The following tactics can increase the visibility of objects:
Order of articles: Studies have shown that items at the top and bottom of lists with six or more items generally sell more than items “buried” in the middle of the list.
Position: For decades, menu designers have included the relative positioning of menu items in a suite of tactics to increase menu performance. The theory is based on gaze movement studies that predict the path customers’ eyes take on a menu and identify “prime spots” where items matter most. Recent scientific studies have tested eye movement theories and their effect on sales with varying results. Nonetheless, industry convention suggests that there is some truth to the theory, although results will vary due to the other factors identified in this article.
Pictures: Images can effectively increase sales of menu items, as they help customers visualize what they are ordering, thereby reducing the risk of purchase. Before using images in your menu, consider the following:
- Precision: Like descriptive text, images must accurately represent the components, garnish and presentation of the dish or customer expectations will not be met.
- Layout: Formatting such as font type, size, style and color, placement of a frame around selected items, and background color can draw attention to the menu items you want to sell. .
The price can influence both the profitability and the popularity of the items. In fact, experience suggests that price changes have a somewhat greater effect on menu profitability than other design variables, making price a critical component of menu design.
Before you set the prices, you need a clear idea of the cost of the items. Remember to include less obvious costs like lost product yield (eg vegetable peels, cooking shrinkage) and costs for the rest of the meal such as bread, wrapping, and condiments. These elements can have a significant impact on profitability.
Finding optimal prices is not always easy. Too high and you risk losing business. Too low and you risk leaving money on the table, or worse, diminishing the perceived value of your brand.
Several methods of market research and analysis exist for pricing. However, small operators may not have the resources for some. A simple approach to setting initial prices is to divide the cost of menu items by the desired food cost ratio, then test that price against the prices of major competitors and adjust it accordingly. Unfortunately, this approach misses opportunities based on customer preferences and perceived value. Once you have sales data, however, the use of menu analysis tools such as menu engineering or cost margin analysis can be used to understand customers’ sensitivity to prices. and identify opportunities to increase or decrease prices in order to maximize the total margin.
Menu design is both a science and an art. Designers need to apply scientific methods to maximize menu performance, but recognize that every operation is different. Certain tactics and approaches can have a significant impact on one menu but less on another. For this reason, menu design should be viewed as an ongoing exercise in monitoring, analyzing, and adjusting to find what works best for the operation. Finally, keeping in touch with developments in research and menu design theory will help operators come up with menus they can rave about.
About the Author
Andrew Waddington is vice president of fsSTRATEGY Inc., business strategy consultants for the restaurant industry. Visit them at www.fsSTRATEGY.com.