Sitting down for a breakfast Mimosa on my birthday last week, something in the café caught my eye. Short, summery, bright and featuring sweet illustrations that look hand painted – I noticed the breakfast menu instantly.
A few days later, I was completing a module of my behavioural economics course and an example of loss aversion came up. Restaurants excluding currency signs and words from their menus, but including the numbers only. The reason they do this is because on average customers will go on to pay 12% more where the £ and pounds are not present – the human brain on a scientific level is averse to spending money. The brain experiences spending money in the same way it experiences actual physical pain! Excluding the signposts of this money (£, €, $ etc.) is a way of tricking the brain out of this reaction. A great illustration of this lack of currency words and symbols can be found below from steak restaurant Smith & Wollensky London.
It was then, after these two instances of menus crossing my path, I thought it is definitely worth talking to you about menus, pricing, and helping out with the do’s and don’ts.
Incorporate images. Photos of your product can be helpful but only if done tastefully and never too many. Food photography is hard to nail – think about the laminated A4 menus you get abroad with sun faded images of food that looks awful in the image but are delicious and look tasty in reality.
This example below shared by my friends at Smart Cookie Design shows how it should be done:
A few carefully selected, high quality images create a clean, modern look that says “fresh” and “delicious.”
Illustrations are a beautiful alternative to classic photos of food if done well. This is the cute cafe menu I was referring to at the start of this post:
My designer friend Nick (Nic.Pash on Instagram) supplied these two examples:
Fun, cool and modern – these menus embody the restaurant’s brand.
Try not to forget about font. If you are a high-end (read fancy and/or expensive) vendor you may want to use ornate or script style typeface. According to studies, people perceive complicated fonts as representing complex foods that need greater skill to prepare – thus justifying higher costs. This applies to other industries too – not just food. A hairdressers’ price list for example would gain the same reaction; ornate type implies complex treatments and styles that justify higher cost. Just make sure you can still read the text and go for a font style in-keeping with your brand and expectations of your target audience.
Use headings and subheadings. This may sound obvious but some restaurants don’t do it! Not only do headings help organise and structure the words on the page, they help people make decisions and filter through the options so they are able to make a choice. It is a fact that an overwhelmed diner will not spend as much money.
Also bear in mind that the bottom of the top third of menu space is prime position. (Nandos have Specialities here). This is where the eyes naturally look first and rest. Give the top spot to a dish you want centre-stage. This might be a house special that often gets over-looked but it could be a dish that has the highest profit margin.
Do not forget about price positioning. Ever heard of anchoring? People often rely on the first piece of information provided to them when making decisions. This is called anchoring. Think about walking in to a shop – the first thing you see is a purse priced at £100, the next thing you see is a jumper priced at £50 – this price seems reasonable in comparison to the £100. Prices are relative and are not judged as cheap or expensive without a benchmark.
Restaurants use anchoring to influence diners. The first item may be your most expensive dish – everything else appears reasonable next to that.
Sometimes, an expensive dish is paired next to a slightly less expensive (but still high-profit) dish, just to make the slightly less expensive (but still pricey) dish seems reasonable.
Price positioning is important!