If you’re running a restaurant, you’re well aware that you only get three minutes to impress your guests. However, some restaurants fail to understand that guests are impressed by the visuals of the ambiance. Ambiance plays a role, but that is certainly not the final decision maker.
Imagine you’re planning to meet friends at a restaurant for lunch. You search for a sophisticated place when you come across a splendid-looking restaurant. With great expectation, you enter the perfect atmosphere of low lighting, soft music, and elegant table settings. You ask for a menu, but it looks like a cheap laminated graduation certificate. The selections are haphazardly arranged, and combos pair dishes that don’t complement each other. The basic descriptions clash with the stylish visuals of the place. Plus, the low lighting makes the menu almost illegible. You just sit there disappointed, wondering if you should leave.
Did the looks of that restaurant help after all? I doubt it.
If only that restaurant used appealing, logically organized menus with enticing dishes, the scenario would have been different. This is called “menu merchandising.”
Menu merchandising, when used correctly, can help restaurant owners avoid these mistakes.
Persuading people to choose your establishment requires you to impress with all aspects. While exterior and interior ambience can inspire guests to consider your restaurant, a well-merchandised menu can get them in the door and ordering food. Smart merchandising can also guide them to choose more items and more expensive dishes. A clear, tantalizing menu that tells them exactly what they’re going to get is a powerful sales tool. Savvy menu merchandizing can help define the concept of your restaurant, align customer expectations to match experience, determine their satisfaction, and promote the restaurant’s longevity.
5 Elements to Strengthen Menu Merchandising
Merchandising a menu includes certain elements that can yield more profit:
- Design in Style – The design of the menu is the first thing your guests will notice. Hence, your menu shouldn’t look like just another laminated take-out sheet. Design your menu with intention, employing visually consistent elements and easy-to-use materials.
The design speaks for your restaurant. Is your restaurant a beverage specialist? Emphasize fruity colors and light-hearted fonts, try vintage chalkboard style illustrations, or have a menu in the shape of a big irresistible glass of blueberry shake. Is your restaurant a hub for corporate professionals? Your menu design might use a modern, high-end style appealing to status-conscious executives.
Other design options include:
- Menus displayed on wooden cutting trays
- Retro illustrations and graphics
- Playful typography and colors
- Fun folded layouts
- Psychedelic visual language
- Modern, clean design
- Rustic, “artisanal” design
- One-page offset or letterpress printed menu
While you may have your own preferences, create menus that complement the ambience and interior design of your establishment. This will help guests associate the menu with your restaurant and arouse a sense of awe. For example, if there’s a huge aquarium dominating the main dining room, your menus may have playful illustrations of marine life or be in the shape of bubble or a fish, or use a white and blue color combo.
- Illustrative Images – It’s a visual world we’re living in, so displaying your dishes with images may be an effective tactic. The images of your dishes will inspire visitors to buy them. Adding images of your best dishes and specialties to your menu will sell more than a clever turn of phrase. The words “smoked meat” will probably not evoke the same amount of drool as one image of delicious-looking red meat.
- Provoking Content– Content must be descriptive and to the point. There is no use going on about how delicious your dishes are. The words and phrases you use should make guests want to taste them. Tell your visitors what they get and employ prompting words like “free,” “special,” “best,” “chef’s choice,” etc. Your content should also be easily legible; you don’t want your guests to squint their eyes trying to read it.
Displaying your prices is yet another challenge. Many visitors look at the price before looking at the food. You want the dishes to impress guests before their prices do. It’s always better to align the price below the item description so that guests look at the item before dismissing its price.
- Compatibility is a Must – Design your menu to complement the interiors of your restaurant; it enhances the ambience you’ve created. If chocolate items are a specialty of your restaurant, then consider interior design elements in shades of brown and a complementing menu with the same chocolate-brown colors with a cream edge.
- Presentation is Important – Cleanliness and elegance are the key words. Your guests don’t want to look at tattered, worn-out pages. Torn, dirty menus will likely repel guests and prompt concerns about the overall cleanliness of your establishment. Imagine being handed a sticky menu encrusted with assorted food particles. Yuck! This means no sale, no return guests, and bad word of mouth. Make checking and wiping down the menus a daily side duty for servers or hostesses.
Your menu is your restaurant, your dishes, your concept, and you. Begin by analyzing all of them and identify what they have in common, then use that element to design the menu. Let your menu speak for itself and for the restaurant. Customers often look at menus online or at the entrance before choosing where to eat. Think of the menu as a marketing technique like a business card. Craft it to meet that standard to increase sales.
Source: TABC Blog by Learn 2 Serve