Food Merchandising Basics and How They Can Help You

how can food merchandising basics can help your restaurant

If our sense of smell determines how tasty our foods are, our sense of sight determines if the food is worth sniffing in the first place. We are visual by nature: we are excited by the things we see, and we act on the quality of the things we see. The chiffon cake with the thick icing and strawberries on top looks far more delicious than its plain cousin, the lemon chiffon, right? Sight, not smell or taste, is our primary sense and our sense of choice when interacting with the world around us.

Good, effective merchandising exploits this preference for the sense of sight. When you’re in the restaurant business it pays literally to make your place as visually appealing as the food you serve. Here are some food merchandising basics to catch the attention of customers:

Put the Food First. Does your menu specialize in farm to table? Do your customers walk through a line to get to an ordering counter? Do you have an electronic menu? These are all areas you can concentrate on merchandizing food.  It starts with color blocking, assembling veggies and fruits in an appetizing way.  Have chips, cookies or other snacks that customers can pick up? Racks need to be full and again, color blocked.  Not sure how to start? There are all types of examples on the web and lots of merchandizing displays available from foodservice suppliers.

The color of success. Use color to reel customers in. Nature does it (fruits turn from a nondescript green to a flamboyant red or yellow or orange to attract fruit-eaters when they ripen), so should you. Use color to your advantage in your display, on your storefront, and in your interiors. Experiment until you get the color combinations right, but make sure that they reflect the spirit of the food you offer and the dining mood that you want to convey. An expressive color palette goes well with light meals, such as breakfast fare; earth tones go well with quiet dinners.

In the best light. Just like color, lighting can significantly affect the mood in a restaurant. Potentially even more so because it can fill entire spaces with color accents or highlight only strategic spots in the room. Depending on the lighting element that you use, you can set certain areas to “feel” warm, for instance, or lighthearted by choosing the right lighting sets and fixtures. Nowadays, you have a choice of all manner of bulbs: LEDs, CFLs, fluorescents, and the retro (and energy-wasting) incandescent. Have fun mixing and matching.

Theme works. Create a visual theme to advertise your menu dishes and set the mood. This way, you prep your customers to subconsciously play the part—and in so doing, whet their appetite for your theme special. If the theme is South Pacific, get the coconuts and the faux grass skirts out and throw in a clatter of ukuleles as props.

The menu. The menu itself is an important visual merchandising tool. The food should not only sound appetizing but irresistible. So, group the dishes: the special on its own, for instance, or in a group with the most popular dishes. (A word of caution: Be careful not to include too many items; an overly large menu is confusing.) Make the menu items visually appetizing by using high-quality photos of food-styled dishes. Also, invest some creative energy in crafting item names; after all, “Le Grand Aïoli” sounds more mouth-watering than “Seafood, Vegetables, and Mayo.” A menu entry with an interesting name often invites a second look and consideration. Finally, choose the proper fonts. Choose from just two font families to ensure readability: one for the entry names, the other for the description. You can stylize the first letter of your entry for effect.

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Source: TABC Blog by Learn 2 Serve

michelle roebuck

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