Menu Design Matters: How You See Your Menu Affects you Sales. Meet the Tiger on Your Table
It’s true, you know. See your menu as a tiger and you’re apt to give it the respect it deserves. Think of it as a pussy cat, and you’ll never hear it roar.
Customers sit down in your restaurant and pick up copies of your menu. It looks tame enough, but what they are holding in their hands is a dynamic marketing tool with all the power of a carnivorous jungle cat.
OK, not really. I mean, which you rather meet in a dark alley—your menu or a hungry tiger? That said, your menu is your number one marketing tool, your primary point-of-purchase piece. Designed right, it can steer guests toward selecting higher-profit items that will make a difference in your bottom line.
Your menu has power. Power to grab your customers’ attention, direct their eyes to specific items, and make their mouths water in anticipation of a great meal. With proper menu engineering, dynamite food photography and professional design, your menu can motivate your patrons to spend more money more often on items that deliver greater profit for you.
Come to think of it, it might not be such a bad thing if menus could pounce. That would make us all sit up and take notice.
The thing is, once you understand the importance of your menu and the pivotal role it can play in driving sales and increasing profits, you’re much more likely to respect it, care for it, and feed it the red raw meat it deserves.
Melissa Smith has a thing for big cats. She recently posted a no-nonsense article titled “How to Care for a Pet Tiger.” Not everything she has to say applies to your menu, of course, but some of the advice she offers does make good sense for restaurateurs who are able to see the crouching tiger hidden in their menu.
Pointers on Caring for Your Tiger Menu:
If you choose a tiger as a pet, you’re making a big commitment to its care. As a general rule, what we put energy into gives us back energy in return. Putting a powerful menu into place at your restaurant does require commitment on your part in terms of time, energy and financial resources. While hiring a menu professional to design and print your menu alleviates much of the work, you will need to be a part of the process in reviewing items and prices, and carefully checking the proofs of the menu before it goes to press. You’ll want to train your servers on how to use the menu to promote higher sales, as well.
Tigers eat more than kitty cats. If you want a powerhouse menu, be prepared to lay out some cash. Your customers expect to pay a fair price for their meal. And they know a side salad will cost less than a steak dinner. If you look for them, you may find places that advertise “free” menus, others that offer do-it-yourself menus. Explore your options. Nothing wrong with that. But if you choose one of those routes, you may find out there’s a reason a side salad costs less than a tender juicy New York Strip. One has more staying power than the other.
Tigers cannot be successfully kept in a broom closet. Nor can your menu items be squeezed onto a postage stamp and do a decent job of representing your bill of fare to your customers. Count the number of items on your current menu. Compare this to a sample menu you like. Do the math. Or rely on a menu professional to do it for you. Part of designing a tiger menu is to give it adequate space to flex its muscles, show off appetizing photographs of your best-selling dishes, and make a splash with your customers.
Tigers and other animals held in captivity benefit from enrichment activities designed to reduce stress brought on by boredom. Your menu benefits from periodic updates, as well, because your guests appreciate opportunities to try new dishes. There are a variety of ways to trial new items before adding them to your permanent menu: feature them as daily specials and advertise them on a specials board; have your servers announce them to guests. Highlight seasonal or holiday offerings on menu inserts and/or table tents. Finally, update your menu items and prices regularly on a schedule that makes sense for your operation. Consider a menu redesign to get your customers’ attention and further stimulate sales.
5. Feed Your Tiger (Menu) Appropriately
Tigers are carnivores. They live on meat, not rabbit food. Melissa notes that big cats should eat about 20 pounds of meat daily, with periodic fasting periods of a day or two. They need more than steaks and burgers. Whole prey should be offered so the tiger can incorporate bones and organ meats into its diet to maintain a proper nutritional balance.
What it takes to make a tiger menu thrive? A quick menu design overview:
There is an art and science to crafting a powerful menu. Applying proven menu engineering techniques to the design of your menu adds muscle and teeth to your menu. Pay attention to where items are positioned on the page and under menu headings, how items are categorized, and the treatment you give your higher-profit items. Draw attention to these with appetizing food photography, graphic devices that highlight these items, and optimum page placement.
Make sure your menu fits. Your menu should reflect your restaurant in style, tone and personality. Your menu sends signals to your customers about the quality of your operation, cleanliness of your kitchen, and the type of dining experience they can expect at your place. Use your menu to make a great first impression, one that will keep your guests coming back for more.
Your menu should make it easy for customers to find what they’re looking for, and especially those higher-profit items you most want them to find. A logical flow to your menu items helps, as do clearly marked categories. Color, font choices and graphic elements can all be used to help guide your customer through the menu.
You may think your menu looks great, but if it’s not readable, you’re losing sales. Use restraint in your choice of type fonts, colors, artwork, photos and other graphic elements. You’ll maximize the power of your menu if all these aspects work together to enhance readability rather than detract from it.
e. Appetizing Food Photography
If it’s in keeping with the style of your restaurant, appetizing food photography on your menu can make a big impact on sales and bottom line profits. People tend to order with their eyes. As human beings we’re wired to pick up on visual cues. A great-looking photo of steak or shrimp or pasta can get our juices rolling.
How you see your menu affects your profits. See your menu as a tiger and you’re more apt to:
• Commit yourself to putting in place a powerhouse menu
• Support your menu with adequate resources
• Make sure your unique menu works for your unique restaurant
• Update your menu, items and prices at regular intervals
• Custom design your menu. Apply menu engineering techniques to guide customers to higher-profit items. Pay attention to menu organization and readability, while employing dynamite food photography for maximum impact.