Restaurants don’t just add pretty pictures when designing a menu. Except at Denny’s, where the main goal is to Photoshop Grand Slams to look less like strikeouts.
To better understand how restaurateurs develop their menus to maximize their profits, we spoke with the Culinary Institute of America (aka the CIA … but not this CIA) instructor Ezra Eichelberger, who has spent the past 23 years teaching students how many appetizers to serve and how to correctly spell dressing. After reading these 11 secrets, you’ll never look at a menu the same way again.
1. A CIA study has shown that if a dollar sign is used in the price, diners are more likely to purchase cheaper options. Even more so for euros or books, because these symbols are terrifying to the eye and wallet.
2. The average time a customer spends on a menu is 109 seconds. Unless it’s Nic Cage, and by then they’ve already broken into the restaurant twice.
3. It is important for the customer to see all the menu items at once, so anything more than a triple is too big. If it’s too big, the customer won’t be able to process it, and they’ll give up and order something they don’t really want.
4. If the prices are in a column, it will result in a price buy. Shift them three spaces from the last letter of the menu description without any dots or dashes to distract the customer from paying $ 20 for roast chicken.
5. A dessert menu should always include the five Cs: citrus, coffee, caramel, chocolate, cheesecake.
6. Desserts shouldn’t be on the main menu. If they see an eye-catching dessert at the start of the meal, they’ll often skip an appetizer. Savvy restaurateurs know how to surprise the guest with a dessert menu after the main course in order to take advantage of the sales of appetizers and desserts.
7. Don’t capitalize on everything. It’s fine to capitalize the name of the dish, but for descriptions use lowercase to slow the reader’s eyes and prevent them from silencing the entire menu.
8. The eight biggest allergies are nuts, peanuts, milk, wheat, eggs, fish, shellfish and soybeans. It is important to list them in all descriptions of dishes, and just as important to make fun of false allergies to gluten.
9. In a two-page menu, most people will first look just above center on the correct page. Then people look at the first and last item on the list. Loading these areas with your highest profit margin foods is a dastardly trick, but putting the best dishes in these places will make customers really enjoy their meals.
10. Restaurants factor in the cost of free items like bread, butter, ketchup, and fortune cookies. A savvy restaurateur will add $ 0.05 for this fancy ketchup ramekin.
11. A healthy rule of thumb for a balanced menu is 10 applications, 10 dishes and six desserts, with at least one vegetarian application and one main course.
Dan Gentile is a writer on the national food and beverage team at Thrillist. He now realizes that he hates dollar signs, columns and fancy ketchup ramekins. Follow him for frugal advice to @ Dannosphere.