Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Direct Line

HOW TO CREATE THE PERFECT MENU

The menu is the heart of your restaurant. But how to create it? Do you know that there are techniques that can help sales and direct customer choices?

The menu represents the central message that you send to each customer. It is as fundamental as the food and dishes you offer. Moreover, some “menu engineer” scholars have studied techniques that can direct customer choices. Let’s see what they are in a whole excursus …

1. The incipit and the length of the menu

Do not confuse your customers with menus of the length and complexity of Proust’s Recherche. Minimize the pages according to the type of business you have but basically, try to contain it within 2 pages. If you have a water list or distilled list, etc., bring them to the table separately. Inside the two pages, then, you can pair the choice of the most appropriate wines for each course, that of desserts with straw wine and a list of cheeses in the end. In short, do not discredit the menus with a few pages: they help the customer not to get lost and be attracted at a glance by more possibilities, without confusing him.

2. The number of courses

Only a few. Even here, try not to exaggerate with the number of courses. Proposing too many courses on the list would make you look inattentive and approximate, while the dishes would give the feeling of not being fresh. On the other hand, providing too few choices would deeply disappoint customers. If you are a restaurant specialized in meat or fish, do not go above seven courses. If, however, you are not a specialized restaurant, give 3 or 4 choices of meat dishes, 3 or 4 fish options and 2 or 3 vegan/vegetarian dishes.

3. The material of the menu

Absolutely avoid plastic: you would give the impression of being a restaurant for tourists or worse fast food. Also, then what kind of clients do you have? Easy: some filthy people that will dirty the menus even before ordering. So are you so cheap that you can not afford to reprint a rumpled menu? So focus on quality and consequently durability. Choose hard paper covers or other even more valuable materials (like leather).

4. The golden triangle

The studies of Menu Engineering (one of the greatest “menu engineers” in the world is the American Gregg Rapp, which can take even a year and a half to create one) have highlighted a trend defined as “Golden Triangle.” In fact, the customer has the habit of starting to look at the menu starting from the center, then go up to the right and go to the upper left corner. It is, therefore, worthwhile to include your main dishes (and those with the largest margin) in those areas.

5. The graphics

Having said that the two pages with hardcover (the material is your choice) is the best solution, always remember that professionals are professionals because they are paid for, and they do a specific job. If you are a cook, you cook, if you are a restaurateur, just do the restaurateur and if you are a graphic designer… well, do menus. This is just to remind you that the lists written with the basic font, perhaps full of errors and therefore correct with the pen represent a wrong advertising message for your business. If you have been superficial and sloppy in designing the heart of your culinary proposal, what should give meaning to your whole business, how can you expect the customer to trust what is happening inside your kitchen? So, rely on a graphic designer for the creation and composition of the menu. Alternatively, study design and think about it …

6. Colors

As for the graphics, the advice of a professional would be ideal. Basically, however, know that red reinforces a choice; green represents healthiness; orange is the color of the appetite; yellow draws attention.

7. Bait dish

At the top of the menu, you can list the most expensive meals. Why? Because scrolling through the menu all the other courses will seem cheaper compared to the first ones. On the contrary, if you want to give the idea of economy, it will be good to put on the top the least expensive dishes. Another trend of customers, then, is to choose the first courses or the very last. It will be good to put here the plates with the best margins for the restaurateur.

8. White spaces

Even a void space can be decisive. Isolating a dish within a menu helps to make it stands out and draw attention to it.

9. Prices

Write the prices at the same height as the dishes and with the same font. The only difference is to lighten the inscription: if the plate and the description are in black, print the prices in gray. Avoid prices as € 9.90: too supermarket effect. Try to impose unit prices, without decimals.

10. Describe the dishes

A study reported by the BBC shows that describing dishes increases sales by 27%. So associate the best-described dishes with those with the highest earnings for you. Also, know that the meals that jump more to the eye within the menu are just those described longer.

11. How to describe the dishes

Do not use complex terms, cloying or useless literary preciousness. Complex terms: “Magret de canard” (warning: terms of this type can be used when they are part of our language as mousse, flambè, etc. otherwise they would embarrass the guests, who would not feel at ease and may not return). Cloying sentences: “elixir of …”, “bed of …”, “fragrance of …”. Unnecessary preciousness: “forest mushrooms in a bucolic crust” (ok, I invented the latter, but it is not hard to believe that it really exists). Be simple, clear and remember that “Less is more.” Avoid complicated dish names and describe them objectively. Write origin and type of products in a few lines, underlining the Organic products, DOP, Slow Food-approved dishes or farm-to-table preparations. Take advantage of the terms such as “fresh daily” or “homemade.” Besides, words such as “our” or “granny’s” attract for the genuineness and nostalgia they can arouse. Be careful not to create false expectations: “zucchini mousse with ham” is different from “zucchini and ham mousse.”

Photo credits: David Spencer, Petras Gagilas, RJ

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

Fabrizio Doremi
My name is Fabrizio Doremi and I am a mathematician. I started working as an IT consultant when I was 21, then I followed for six years the development of the project: Conad.it, at age 28 I founded Wiloca, and I was responsible for the digital restyling of Gambero Rosso (an Italian guide). In this scenario I had the idea of Foodiestrip. It is reality now. Since I'm in my forties I decided it was about time to go back to school for a degree in Communication. Just in case the numbers will finish I'll always have words.