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3 Tips for Successful Menu Design


When you design your menu, you’re creating the guest experience. This document is the first way guests interact with your cuisine, and it’s important to make a good first impression. Highlight your most popular items to help guests find their new favorite dish. You can also enticingly list your most profitable dishes to encourage customers to spend more. As you approach the design process, bear these top 3 tips in mind to build the most effective menu possible.

Lay it Out

Your menu layout is a way to draw the eye to dishes you’d most like to sell. Menu engineer Gregg Rapp says, “The upper right is where a person will go on a blank sheet of paper or in a magazine,” so putting your most profitable items in that spot will bring them more attention. After that, consider the flow of the eye from section to section. Guests will want to think about their meal in the order they plan to eat, so salads and appetizers should be above and to the left of your larger entrees.

Another vital part of listing menu items is the concept of decision fatigue or the paradox of choice. This well-known phenomenon states that people have trouble remembering lists of more than seven items. (This is also why phone numbers in the U.S. - sans area codes - consist of seven digits.) Including more than seven items in one category will confuse guests. They’ll take longer to place their orders, which may disrupt your restaurant’s flow. Also, as they’re feeling overwhelmed in the first place, it gets harder to draw their eyes to your more expensive or profitable dishes. By sticking with the magic number seven, you can ensure that their experience and their ticket size are the best they can be.

Sign of the Dollars
A study at Cornell University found that one simple change can significantly increase the amount of money guests are willing to spend. If you delete dollar signs from the menu, your guests will think less about price and more about the food. You still want to include the costs of your menu items, but be sure to list them as simple numbers without a currency symbol.

This strategy prioritizes the guest experience while maximizing your profit margins. Guests go out to eat when they want to have fun, relax, and enjoy their time. They don’t want to be thinking about their bank accounts or worrying about whether they can justify that extra appetizer. By making this one simple change, you encourage them to stay present and in the moment. However, there’s no need to sacrifice transparency here. Gently emphasize your cuisine instead of focusing on how much it costs.

Online Design
As online ordering continues to expand, it’s become essential for restaurants to include a menu on their website. This strategy maximizes the number of orders you’ll receive, and can also have a significant impact on your profitability. 25% of consumers say they spend more on online orders than they do when they come into a restaurant.

Your online menu should be pretty similar to the one you hand to guests in your restaurant. Depending on your website, including a pdf of your menu online makes it hard for some guests to view through their browser. It’s best to design a menu that can appear directly on your website, with no downloads or extra clicks needed. Consult with a web designer to create the best possible layout for this page, since you may need to consider a different strategy than the one you exerted for your printed menu. For example, the use of white space is particularly important for online menus, as it makes lists of menu items accessible to read.

As a general rule, your menu design should reflect the overall brand of your restaurant. For instance, if you operate a taco stand, you may want to use bright colors and eye-catching drawings of your cuisine. On the other hand, an upscale tapas bar may do better with a minimalist design. Choose an aesthetic that will tie into the experience of your cuisine. This will set the tone for the rest of the meal, setting guests at their ease and improving the dining experience.

About the Author
Ron May is the VP of eSolutions at Sysco, a Fortune 100 company. He is a professional services leader with proven expertise in digital customer experience, large scale operations, strategic solution delivery, and cultivation of executive-level client relationships.

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