The Psychology of Menus –12 Top Tips

Profitable Menus

Discover the psychology of menus with our 12 top tips. Learn how to create a menu that maximizes profit and enhances customer experience.

The Menu

The menu has been called “A map that encourages easy navigation between hunger and satisfaction.” We agree. Especially when creating an online menu where content, design  and usability informs a guest’s experience and decisions.

Unlike paper menus, a digital menu’s user experience is more important than the creativity of its design. Ease of navigation matters. Mobile phones limit the number of items you can share at once. This means being very selective about what you showcase, how you organize information and draw attention to your bar’s most profitable items. 

  1. Engineer Your Menu for Profit

Your menu. It’s a powerful, profit-generating tool. You only need to unlock its potential. Before you design your menu, you should understand the pour cost of each item and your estimated sales. With this information, you can determine the profitability of every item, and then categorize them according to profit and popularity. If this sounds like a lot, don’t worry! Read to the end of this article to access several tools and resources to help you with this crucial step.

  1. List the Most Profitable Items First

So, you now know the pour cost of every item on your menu. It’s time to make sure the most profitable items are the first things guests see when viewing your online menu. In addition, make sure you draw attention to important items and categories with prominent callouts. For example, create a section called Bartender’s Specials with delicious-looking photos (or even auto-play videos), so that guests gravitate to the areas of the menu you want them to.

  1. Make it Easy to Navigate

The easier you make it for a guest to decide, the closer you are to an order. Make your online menu easy to use and scannable by streamlining your choices, using clear headings and labels, and creating intuitive categories and subcategories. Add filters and a search function to let guests narrow down their choices. You can even use expand and collapse categories to eliminate load times.

  1. Beat the Algorithms

Optimize your menu for search engines and make it available wherever potential guests search for it. This step is critical to bringing in new customers and retaining existing ones.

We’ll help you get started.

  1. Make sure you have a menu link on your homepage.
  2. Make your menu available in a text format (not just a PDF), so that search engines can find and prioritize it.
  3. Post your menu on menu hosting sites, local business directories, and social media sites in addition to your website. Companies like Google prioritize menus that are available in multiple places.
  4. Identify words that customers are using in searches related to your business and include them in your menu names and descriptions.

  5. Make Your Menu Social

Social media is a powerful tool for promoting your business and its menu. Invite your customers to follow you so you can stay connected. Make sure to link to your social accounts wherever you can. Provide guests with hashtags and handles they can use when talking about your business. You should also allow guests to share your menu items on social media, including prewritten text and images so guests can seamlessly share with friends.

  1. Paradox of Choice

Decision fatigue is real, people. Choosing from tons of equally delicious menu options can challenge your guests. Help them out. An effective online menu will do more than present options – it will help them decide between options. The online medium is unique because it can incorporate additional, decision-driving information in an engaging way. For example, you can show the star rating and reviews of specific drinks. Being online, you can even include chef commentary videos on drink and food pairings to drive decisions and upsell to more premium brands. Finally, you can share transparent information about ingredients, ABV, allergens, calories, and whether or not items fit in with special dietary restrictions (like gluten-free or vegetarian).

  1. Bury the Price

You don’t want a guest passing up a delicious, potential new favorite item because of the price. Nest your prices. Put the price after the meal description, in the same size or smaller font. Also, don’t include a dollar sign or use a dotted line that leads to the price. These put focus on the price instead of the offering. This is easy to do on your own website. However, the templated designs of many menu-hosting websites may not allow for this.

  1. Write Crave-Worthy Names & Descriptions

Make an item’s appeal easy to understand. It should trigger the senses and use words that share what makes it uniquely delicious. The menu names and descriptions should also use highly searched for terms and be updated for trends, seasonality, and events. Try to avoid the label “new.” Studies show that most guests avoid “new” items, fearing that they may be unproven or untested.

  1. Include Mouthwatering Photos

People eat with their eyes first. Use the power of crave-worthy photos to help sell your menu items. Images also help in the search. Original pictures, named appropriately, can draw guests to your menu from an image search. We recommend using custom images of your actual menu items as you would serve them. Make sure to add appealing descriptions to all of your photos as they also influence choice. Pro tip: stage your photos in natural lighting, garnishing, and plating sauces separately.

Don’t forget, guests take photos of great cocktails too! Sometimes they even post and tag your bar or restaurant. Re-share them on your feed and be sure to give photo credit to your guest.

  1. Use Brand Names

When your menu items boast the best ingredients, let your customers know. You can elevate your offerings by including the names of high-quality brands in the name and description. For example, if you’re using premium chocolate or local produce, be sure to call it out. This is a cocktail menu essential, as nearly 60% of customers say they want to see the spirit’s brand name listed when ordering.*

  1. Measure Your Performance

Track and measure every aspect of your online menu performance. Metrics like unique menu visits and frequently viewed items are especially important to follow. For those with online ordering, you’ll want to track conversion rates by comparing the number of purchases generated by each item to the number of customers who viewed each item. This will help you better understand what is driving sales and what isn’t. Tracking can also help identify points of friction as well as help drive repeat usage and increased sales. This all helps you know where you’ve been, and where you are and set goals for future performance and sales.

  1. Maintain Your Menu

Keep your menu up to date. Everywhere it lives online. This can be time-consuming, especially across multiple platforms. Fortunately, that’s what menu management services are for. They allow you to easily update and maintain your online menu, convert it into a digestible, search-friendly format, and push it out everywhere at once. Click here for a quick guide to all your online menu hosting options.

Follow these steps and make a winning online menu. They’re a worthy investment, creating experiences that will differentiate you from the competition.

*Technomic, 2019