Menu Design: Your Design Choices Can Impact SalesIf you operate a restaurant, one key piece of corporate communication is your menu. Restaurateurs typically spend a lot of time and effort determining what goes on the menu, but making choices about menu design can have a surprising impact on your sales. Here are a few facts that may make you re-think your current menu design.

Some surprising facts about menu design

Know how your customers read your menu. Designers and restaurateurs alike assume that people read menus like they read newspapers. Menu designers place premium menu items on the top right quadrant of the menu. Lower priced items occupy a lower spot on the page. Appetizers and salads occupy the first page under the assumption that the diner will choose the entrée first, and then fill in with other menu items.

Well, throw away your assumptions about how customers read menus. A 2012 study by a researcher at San Francisco State University showed that consumers read menus like they read books – starting at the top left and moving sequentially through the menu. As it turns out, diners are motivated to read the entire menu – quite opposite of the way they read newspapers. The study also showed that consumers don’t spend any more time on one place in the menu than they do on others. In other words, there are no “sweet spots” when it comes to menu design.

Leaving faulty assumptions behind allows you to make different menu design choices. For example, a server will immediately ask a diner what he or she would like to drink, but often, the beverages are printed on the last page of the menu, if at all. Not having ready access to the beverage menu means that the diner will ask the server, which ultimately slows down service in the dining room. If you don’t want to place your beverages on the food menu, consider a tabletop beverage menu that diners can glance through quickly.

Picture menus can backfire. Putting pictures on the menu seems like a no-brainer, but it’s not. Unless you use exceptionally high-quality, professional photos of your dishes and possibly engage the services of a “food stylist” to give them an ultra-appetizing look, a menu design that includes food pictures may actually reduce your sales. If you have your heart set on using images in your menu design, consider illustrations instead.

Some customers “know” what they want. Some customers already have an idea of what they plan to order before they look at the menu. These readers “skim” the menu to find what they’ve already selected. You can slow down a skimmer by using varying typefaces, colors and type sizes. Visually differentiating your dishes can help draw attention to a menu choice a diner would otherwise have never considered.

Don’t put dollar signs in your diners’ eyes. Dollar signs remind people that they’re spending money on your menu, so consider eliminating them from your menu design. Similarly, don’t line up your menu prices in a column, because that encourages comparison-shopping. Instead, post your menu price immediately after the dish description.

Take desserts off your menu. Well, don’t get rid of them; just put them on their own menu. When diners see particularly tempting desserts on the menu, they’ll “trade” the appetizer to get it. If you don’t immediately distract diners with The Big Finish, you stand a better chance of persuading diners to go for both.

If you would like more information about menu design and how it can impact your bottom line, please contact our Creative Director, Dave Ramsell or give Dave a call at (330) 243-0651 to set up a consultation.

Photo Credit: theswedish, via