Do you often walk into a restaurant with a craving for a juicy burger but end up ordering a bowl of pasta? And you wonder how did this happen? Well, you are not alone. Blame the strategic restaurant menu design that invariably makes you “choose” what restaurants “want you to order.”
At first glance, most menus look like a simple but creative list of restaurant dishes. However, break it down, and it can seem even more complex than a Rubik’s cube.
Harnessing the power of subliminal messaging, restaurateurs, chefs and menu planners continue to invent new psychological tricks for designing menus in a way that maximizes profit. So if you think the food selection is yours, think again.
We spoke to food industry insiders to uncover the secret psychology behind restaurant menus. Turns out there’s quite a bit of visual and verbal psychology involved!
The subtle placement of the dishes
One of the most common menu design tips is to put the highest margin dishes (the most expensive and profitable dishes for restaurants) on top. When diners read the menu, they tend to scan the dishes in the upper right corner of the menu. In industry jargon, this is called the “sweet spot,” meaning that in most cases, diners go for the top two choices. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes a guest can opt for the dish placed at the bottom. To deal with this, restaurant owners place the third most expensive dish at the bottom.
The paradox of choice
The more choices we have, the more anxious we feel. Isn’t that especially the case when you look at a restaurant menu? Therefore, most menus offer limited options for food categories such as desserts, appetizers, and main courses. What if you are wondering what is the magic number? It’s seven o’clock !
It’s all about the colors
The colors used in the menu also affect what we order when we eat out. For example, green is used for fresh food. Orange is known to stimulate appetite. Red, on the other hand, prompts us to act, and this is why the most profitable dishes are presented in red in most restaurants.
Strategic use of keywords
When planning a menu, the description of the meal plays an important role. When describing a meal, keywords are strategically placed to trigger the imagination and tempt our taste buds. For example, keywords like vegan, organic, freshly caught, etc. A good menu planner avoids using terms like “best pizza” because they just aren’t true. Keywords, which appear to be true, relatable are used.
White space manipulation
If the menu is full of text, it can confuse the restaurant. Plus, it naturally forces our eyes to focus on the empty spaces on the menu. Restaurant owners leave nothing to chance; they use this to their advantage by placing profitable dishes in their own box, away from the crowds of other dishes.
No mention of the rupee sign
Let’s face it, splashing the money on the menu is not a pleasant process. Menu planners completely remove the rupee sign from meal lists on the menu to distract the customer from the price. Sometimes smart restaurateurs write the price in letters. This is another diversionary tactic. Now that the secret is out, you won’t fall for the trap, will you? Where do you want ?