Type, colour, currency symbols and vivid adjectives: all items to pay attention to when designing menus–but not for aesthetic reasons.
Subtle changes to menus can influence our restaurant decision-making, as is made obvious by Sarah Kershaw’s excellent article onÂ the psychology of restaurant menus.
(If you’ve read the articles inÂ my previous post on this topic there is littleÂ new information in this piece, but it is worth reading for the few tasty morsels that are new.)
Some restaurants use what researchers call decoys. For example, they may place a really expensive item at the top of the menu, so that other dishes look more reasonably priced; research shows that diners tend to order neither the most nor least expensive items, drifting toward the middle. Or restaurants might play up a profitable dish by using more appetizing adjectives and placing it next to a less profitable dish with less description so the contrast entices the diner to order the profitable dish. [â€¦] Dr. Wansink said that vivid adjectives can not only sway a customer’s choice but can also leave them more satisfied at the end of the meal than if they had eaten the same item without the descriptive labeling.
A short piece in Time profiling Gregg Rapp: a “menu engineer” who optimises restaurant menus to maximise profits.
The first step is the design. Rapp recommends that menus be laid out in neat columns with unfussy fonts. The way prices are listed is very important. “This is the No. 1 thing that most restaurants get wrong,” he explains. “If all the prices are aligned on the right, then I can look down the list and order the cheapest thing.” It’s better to have the digits and dollar signs discreetly tagged on at the end of each food description. That way, the customer’s appetite for honey-glazed pork will be whetted before he sees its cost.
On a similar theme, another article looks at how using obscure terminology and unusual or hard-to-read typefaces can influence diners.
All this talk of influence, food and psychology reminds me of the little-known second-cheapest wine syndrome. The following from a Harvard Law Record article:
Restaurant owners will often price the wine they buy cheapest at wholesale as the second-cheapest wine on the menu. Why? Because people generally don’t order the cheapest wine and thus often turn to the second cheapest. Price that one higher, and you get a bigger marginal profit. Prestoâ€”restauranteur as microeconomist!