Restaurant menu design utilizes far more science and psychology than most of us are even aware of. By combining a few simple restaurant psychological tweaks and marketing when designing a menu, restaurateurs can get customers to make more purchases for higher ticket items.

Whether you think of this sort of thing as influencing or flat subliminal coercion, the fact is that it works and will increase your restaurant’s average ticket.

First Impressions Are Big

Just like when you meet someone for the first time, the first impression for your menu also has a big impact on how patrons will purchase. Since most people will only scan a menu for about 2 minutes in total, having a big impact in a short period of time is crucial to getting the most out of your menu. Here we can use some restaurant psychology. Simple things like bold and clear menu section titles is a big one, and where you draw people’s eyes in that short period of time is big as well. When a menu is set up top to bottom, people will spend the most time scanning the first few items, so be sure to put your top sellers and highest profit items in those top spots where the eye will draw first and frequently.

Put Focus On Certain Items

Focusing on your best seller, namesake dishes, or highest profit margin dishes is something that you should also employ. If your #1 seller and your “claim to fame” dish is Pernil, have that listed in its own section.

Box it off away from other entrées and highlight it with a border, possibly a photo, and a better explanation of the history and preparation of the dish. This will pique interest as many will be interested in trying the dish that is what made your restaurant a success. Such as “Abuela’s (Grandmas) Award Winning Pernil”, this will create nostalgia another good thing

Color Schemes

Color is more important to a successful menu than many people actually think. Any person who understands restaurant psychology knows that certain colors will create certain feelings such as desire or risk, or warmth and comfort, or speed and more. Colors can pull a wide range of subconscious emotions from diners and that should be employed to your advantage.

BBQ restaurants will do well with reds and browns, that mimic the type of food and sauces. Where fish restaurants will do well to employ various blue colors. Pizza or Italian restaurants will do well to use black and red.

The point is that reds and blues are some of the best colors to use and will keep things looking clean and interesting.

Don’t Use A Lot Of Pictures

There is a time and place for photos on a menu and there should not be a ton of them. Think of the huge diner menus that are laminated, have 10 pages, and lots of photos — it just never looks that appealing.

This can deter people from choosing as the images may be unappealing or just not that great. Most higher-end restaurants will avoid putting images altogether, where other chain establishments like Outback will use lots of photos.

Barbecue or sports bars may want to employ heading images only, like showing wings at the Appetizer section and a rack of Ribs on the title of entrées. Where as a pizza place will show illustrations instead of photos — like an illustration of cheese and tomato and rolling pin in the pizza section, or a vegetable selection illustration on the salad section.

Use Language To Create A Feeling

Language is also incredibly powerful when it comes to choosing from a menu. Use descriptive language that creates feelings of nostalgia, or other senses. For example, don’t say “Beef Meatballs”, say “Nonna’s Fire Roasted Meatballs”, and in the description elaborate, “Fire Roasted, hand made, succulent, juicy, hearty, tender, home-style, traditional, refreshing, belly-busting, etc”. This can increase sales in comparison to bland text that doesn’t generate feelings at all.

Take It Seriously

Taking your menu design seriously as a critical aspect of your business is a must. When done right it can be a real asset to your daily sales but if done poorly it can deter people from making purchases and even coming back. So be sure to do it right, do some testing, see other restaurants that are popular and be willing to make changes.

This article has covered some basic menu psychology but there is also much to be learned regarding the materials used, such as waterproof restaurant menu paper, when designing a menu. Sometimes the best way to go is with a professional menu company

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