They say you only get one chance to make a first impression, and for restaurant owners, their menus speak volumes. Are there too many choices? Are the dishes too expensive? Is the most recent version available online so people can evaluate it fairly? Menu design psychology experts can offer valuable advice about how to make diners feel at ease with the menu and prices so they feel comfortable ordering and confident about their choices.
If your menu needs a refresh for the New Year, consider these tips:
- Limit Choices: Restaurants are often better served limiting the options, according to a psychology theory called the “paradox of choice.” The theory states that the more choices people have, the more stressed they feel and will default to the familiar. Restaurant experts agree that seven is a comfortable number of options for each menu category. Other menu designers opt for the “good, better, best” approach which gives an affordable choice, a mid-range dish, and a high-end, expensive selection.
- Looks Matter: Going out to eat can be an expensive proposition, so menu design psychology recommends using pricing tactics that will make people relax about investing in their meal. Some of these recommendations include making the numbers look as friendly as possible. This means dropping the $ sign and listing prices as “9” instead of “9.00.”
The use of color can help stimulate certain behaviors, for example, using green and red for December to get people in the mood for seasonal offerings. Menu design psychology experts also recommend using descriptive language to make dishes sound more appealing. People are more likely to order “bruschetta made with heirloom tomatoes and fresh herbs” than just “bruschetta.”
- Online Menus: The restaurant experts at Opentable.com say that 86 percent of people who are going out to eat want to see the menu ahead of time, so be sure to upload a copy of your menu online. Update it frequently to reflect seasonal specials and price changes to avoid disappointed customers or arguments over the bill.
- Mobile-Friendly: According to the Digital Trends blog, Americans spend 4.7 hours a day on their smartphones. That’s a lot of time spent on mobile browsers, so it’s important that your restaurant menu is easy to read and navigate on the go. Slow-to-load Flash animation or a grainy, low definition photo of your menu could be all it takes for someone to click away from the page. A mobile-friendly menu can entice people to stay on the page and start to take note of favorite dishes.
- Digital Menus for Daily Changes: For quick service restaurants, cafés and coffee shops that change their menus frequently, the menu design psychology is different. Eateries that need to frequently update their menus require a medium that allows them to swap items in and out without reprinting the entire menu every time. Digital menus are eye-catching and can be changed frequently to update pricing, add photos or change between breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The New Year is almost here, so if your menu needs to be refreshed, now is the time. Not having the most recent version of your menu online can cost you money, so take a few minutes to upload it. Finally, follow the tips from menu design psychology experts to make sure the menu is user-friendly: not too long or price glaringly obvious and that it flows in a way that invites people to order what they want.