5 ways to design a restaurant menu to maximise sales

Did you know most big-name supermarkets are laid out to maximise the amount of goods you buy? Chips are over with soft drinks. Bananas are next to the hot chickens. Lavosh crisps and dips are discounted at the same time. Staples like milk and eggs are in the far corners, so you have to walk past everything to stock up. By the time you finish navigating the store for the necessities that mandated going there in the first place, you’ve got amassed a trolley of unrelated bits and bobs. And it happens every time. And, social science says, you probably had a great time along the way.

In other words, the big supermarket players understand the psychology of modern retail so well they can use it to maximise sales and deliver a satisfying consumer experience all at once. The good news? You can do the same with your business, and it’s as easy as rejigging the way patrons experience your menu. Here are five ways to maximise sales from ravenous patrons counting on your prompt hospitality:

  1. Stay away from those $ signs
    The way most patrons see it, dining out is bound to be a costly experience. Entrees, mains, desserts, drinks – the whole affair comes with a price tag, and studies into the effects of menu price formats have shown that price tag is a little easier on the eye if you omit all currency signs ($, in our case). tPut simply, research shows customers are more likely to spend more money if they can’t see that dollar sign next to the number on that dish they’re salivating over.
  2. Try not to use images
    Food photography may seem like an attractive way to present the food you offer, but it’s ultimately an art form and that means it’s inherently subjective. In most cases, a diner’s imagination is better than their ability to appreciate artful culinary photography, so if you omit pictures of your food, they’ll have to conjure up sweet visuals themselves. Imagination is endless, but there are only so many ways you can render a hunk of grain-fed porterhouse, succulent as it appears.
  3. Segment your menu into clear areas
    This one may seem like a no-brainer, but too many restaurants lay out their different food offerings chaotically, and with no regard to the way a dining experience progresses. There’s no sense in having entrees mixed with desserts or salads listed below sweets; separate your menu into clearly defined segments and be exhaustive in the way you categorise options into each segment. Don’t overburden the customer with unnecessary sub-segments, either – a ‘from the grill’ section may look quaint and rustic, but it often appears as a glorified ‘mains’ section. Less is more, so if you can combine two segments, do it.
  4. Keep it to a single page, if possible
    a. Again, less is more. If your menu is big and offers lots of delicious options that’s obviously an attractive proposition to diners, but there is a threshold of diminishing returns. If your menu goes over three pages and each page is littered with choices a cull may be in order. Think about the consumer experience: they’re already spoiled for choice, and there’s a unique sense of anxiety you get from an overwhelming menu. By the time diners have perused page four’s ‘Speciale di pollo’, they’ve forgotten about the ‘Speciale per le carni’ on page two. When it comes down to it, a restaurant with too many choices will intimidate diners looking for an effortless dining experience.
  5. Utilise the ‘sweet spot’
    The ‘sweet spot’ is a time-honoured industry term for the top right-hand corner of your menu page. It’s the spot researchers say diners look at first when scanning a menu. It’s not clear why that’s the first place the eye surveys, but many restaurants place their flagship dish (or one of their more expensive options) in that sweet spot in an early attempt to court the diner. Once you’ve pulled their attention with a dynamic sweet spot filler, you can use the space to establish credibility (look at these fine dishes we’re renowned for) or sell popular choices, those based of course on sales trends you’ve established within your own restaurant.

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