So you’ve carefully designed and developed the dishes you’d like to put on your menu. You’ve got a few classic dishes, some vegetarian plates, a handful of gourmet entrees and a number of great appetizers. You write it up, print it onto a menu, and go about your business. A week or so later though, you realize that more than half of your dinner orders are for the cheapest entrée on the menu. What gives?
It turns out that there are a number of reasons customers might be straying away from your star dishes, all starting with your menu design. There are a few little known tips and tricks the pros use to steer customers towards their best and most profitable dishes that you should be using too! What customers order is not completely out of your control, and you may even be unintentionally leading them away from your most preferable dishes.
Below are 5 tips for designing your menu so that you can have some say in what dishes are ordered most often. Use these techniques to keep the high margin orders rolling in and be sure that your best dishes don’t get lost in your menu.
1. Know Where Your Customers Will Look First
Many are not aware that there is a consistent trend as to where a customer’s eyes will go first when looking at a menu. Research has shown that the initial place your eyes will naturally fall first is just to the right of the center of the menu at the top.
This sweet spot is the best area to put the dishes you want your customers to order most, such as the highest margin items or the dishes that take the least prep time (depending on your business model.)
2. Be Conscious of Order on the Menu
The first two items in a section tend to be ordered the most often. At the top of each section (appetizers, entrees, desserts, etc) place the items you’d like to encourage customers to purchase right at the top of the list. Don’t bury your best dishes down among the rest of your menu items where they might get lost; put them front and center to make sure they are both noticed and ordered often.
3. Use White Space to Your Advantage
In a busy menu, white space can actually draw your attention more than text will. Use this tendency to your advantage! Put your best dish in its own space with a bit of a buffer on all sides; customers can’t help but notice the difference in formatting and will not be able to overlook this dish.
4. Avoid Using Dollar Signs
When dollar signs are used beside each price on the menu it does something in a customer’s subconscious. They become much more price wary and will gravitate towards the cheapest dishes on the menu, no matter how delicious your description of each item sounds.
By writing prices simply as numbers without dollar signs customers will pay much more attention to the savory qualities of your dishes and not only be focused on price.
5. Don’t Put Your Prices in a Column
Many restaurants tend to put their prices in a straight column off to the right of the names and descriptions of each dish. By doing this, however, studies have found that it invites price comparison between dishes and will make price point the determining factor in a selection.
A way to combat this is to list the prices staggered, inviting customers to read and learn about the components of each dish, rather than simply price shopping. Let your appetizing entrees pull them in rather than your prices alone.
A more profitable menu design might be the key you need to get your star dishes noticed and ordered more often. Don't let a drab menu allow your favorite items to get lost in the lists!