Menu Masterclass: Unlocking Your Menu's Potential Part 2

In Part 1 of Menu Masterclass: Unlocking Your Menu's Potential, we looked at the psychology and the importance of the structure and content of the restaurant menu.

We've explored the techniques engineered into Menu Design that subtly influence the decisions we make; including the science behind positioning, colour theory, use of descriptive words, and leaving a strong and lasting impression.

In this second part of a two-part series, we expand on the elements of the Menu Design Paradigm, and how you can use this to unlock the true potential of your restaurant menu.

1) Pair photographs with dishes ONLY if you need to

Pairing a photograph of dishes with your menu items depends largely on the type of restaurant. Low-end and cheaper venues typically use this technique, whilst high-end restaurants avoid the use of photographs completely. For example, a casual and affordable sports bar would typically be the perfect candidate for attaching photos to their items.

However, according to Rapp, one photograph per menu page can increase the sales on a menu item by up to 30%.

Alternatively, opting for high-quality photographs or creative illustrations can emphasise the appeal-factor of particular dishes.

2) Don't underestimate the Power of Nostalgia

For both Marketing and Menu Design, Nostalgia is one of the strongest drivers that can trigger an emotional resonance that is hard to resist.

When we refer to things that are 'nostalgic', we refer to the memories of better times (the good ol' days!) and/or the heritage behind the chef, the owner, or the restaurant itself. 

"Humanising a dish takes it out of the realm of being a commodity"

Nostalgia is a very powerful force - because, for many people, happy memories are a shared experience in the kitchen or around the dining room table.

3) Get rid of your dollar sign!

Needless to say, pricing is one of the trickiest elements to nail in your restaurant menu. It's all about finding balance between making profit, whilst also trying not to scare your diners out of your venue.

Dollar signs remind diners of the 'guilty pain' tied with spending money, which may result in decisions being based solely off dollar value, rather than its ingredients and quality.

According to Rapp, leaving off the dollar signs "softens the prices." Studies also show that people spend significantly more at restaurants who do not place the dollar signs with their prices.

4) Bury your price

On top of leaving off any existing dollar signs to your menu items, a good technique to distract your customers from the price is making them less visible. This can be done in one or two ways:

  • Appealing descriptions: By crafting eye-catching, attention-grabbing menu descriptions, you can bury your price underneath them.
  • 'Decoy': A decoy menu item is one that is usually outrageously expensive, but is not necessarily there to be sold. The purpose of a Decoy Menu Item is to make your other items look more reasonable and look more affordable.

5) Your numbers should be as friendly as you are!

Everyone is a victim of the numbers game - whether you'd fall under its influence while shopping at your favourite clothing store or looking for a car with a big price ticket attached to it. 

Different number combinations have different connotations. For the purposes of menu pricing, here is a summary of what pricing combinations actually mean.

Prices ending in 0.99 suggests value, but not necessarily quality.

Prices ending in 0.00 suggests 'stuffiness', whilst those ending in 0.95 is a lot more friendlier and inviting.


Menu design isn't a confusing mess, if it's very well thought out.

A menu that is well crafted, along with a little T.L.C, can mean the difference between profits and losses. Like a retail shopping bag, your restaurant menu is your silent salesman; an indirect influence exerted onto the diner's purchasing behaviour.

Take some of these techniques, and embrace the hidden power behind the mighty menu.



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