Understanding the psychology behind menu design

Understanding the psychology behind menu design can help you persuade guests into ordering specific dishes, usually the ones with the highest profit margins. Carefully designed menus should be on-brand, easy to read and designed to maximise your profits. Follow the advice below to influence your guests decision:

1) Colour choices

Choose the colours used on your menus carefully as these can either influence or put off guests. To suggest the freshness of items, opt for green, whilst orange can stimulate the appetite. You could also opt for colours that represent the provenance of the dishes, such as blue for a seafood restaurant. Red is eye-catching and encourages action, persuading guests to buy higher priced meals

2) Removing currency symbols

Savvy guests will be keeping an eye on the price, so by removing the currency symbol, you are taking away the emphasis on the cost of menu items. To encourage guests to spend 30% more, write the prices in letters.

3) The importance of a great description

Choose your descriptions carefully and add adjectives to make your dishes even more appealing. Descriptions that include the cooking process help customers to appreciate the craftsmanship of producing the dish and using nostalgic phrasing, for example family recipe or grandma’s home-cooked cake, has an emotional effect.

For meals that have the highest profit margins use longer descriptions as this will help to subtly draw attention to the dishes.

4) Seven is the magic number

You don’t want to overwhelm your guests and leave them feeling like they might have made the wrong choice so limit your menu items to 7 per section. This gives enough choice without being overwhelming, resulting in a bad experience for guests.

5) Make use of negative space

Restaurant menus tend to be crowded so use open space to draw attention to items with largest profit margins. This can be effective as we very quickly scan over a menu and are naturally drawn to dishes that stand out so if there is a particular dish you want to sell more of, create space around it.

6) Use the upper-right corner

Eyes naturally gravitate towards upper-right corner so place items you want to sell most here and combine with other design tricks, such as bold typography, for maximum effect.

7) Image is everything

You should be paying just as much attention to the material of your menu as what is being printed on it. The brand image should be represent by the choice of material for the menu. High-end restaurants should consider materials such as leather or heavier weight papers that represent quality whilst lower end restaurants want to be representing value for money, so material such as vinyl might be a suitable option for menus.

8) Use decorative elements

There are a number of ways to make items stand out with decorative elements. These include call-out quotes, boxes and frames to draw attention to particular dishes. You could also use accent colours to highlight items. Try to avoid use of photography for high-end restaurants, as this can look cheap; instead opt for hand-drawn illustrations, which looks subtler. Using too many decorative elements can have the reverse effect though, so ensure this is done sparingly for maximum effect.

9) Bury the prices

If prices are too obvious, such as listing in a separate column, it could put guests off more expensive dishes. If you tag prices onto the end of the description, in the same type, it will be less noticeable and their eyes will glide straight past it.

Another successful technique is to mark one item up particularly highly to make other items with a high price margin seem more reasonable.

10) Clever pricing

Another common technique to influence restaurant menu choices is to end item prices in .95, which makes the price seem more inviting and better value. Very exclusive restaurants prefer to price items at a round number which creates an air of sophistication.

If you’d like to find out more about menu design or just want some inspiration, why not check out our post featuring a round up of inspiring menu designs?