The menu is one of the most powerful selling tools for restaurants. It provides space to not only introduce guests to the food options, but also reinforces the concept, highlights certain specials or high-margin items, and, when optimized properly, can be a reliable tool to increase restaurant sales.
In order to get the most out of your menu, however, you have to make sure that it's organized properly with key menu engineering techniques in mind. There are a lot of little mistakes and seemingly small elements that restaurant owners and chefs overlook when creating their menu. Below are five menu mistakes to be sure to avoid.
Too Many Menu Items
While you may be tempted to offer your guests the world, it is possible for your menu to be too long. At a certain point, additional menu items stop improving the guest experience and start hurting sales. When the menu is too long, guests tend to take longer to decide what they want. There are simply too many options to choose from. When it takes longer for guests to place their orders, it slows down the table turn time or the time it takes to get guests through the line. The result is that you end up serving fewer guests during each shift. Keep your menu simple. If there are items that aren’t popular, remove them.
Driven by Price Alone
A menu should avoid listing menu items with drastically different price points together. This causes guests to more frequently select the lower priced item, hurting your revenue. The menu should also not make price the focal point. The prices should be the same size and font as the rest of the menu text. Prices should also be aligned with the rest of the text so the prices are not the first thing guests see when scanning the menu.
It seems obvious, but it's worth noting that menus should be organized logically. Items should be listed by menu groups. All appetizers should be in one section of the menu, all of the burgers listed together, etc. The desserts should not appear before the appetizers. Menu groups should be listed in order of course. This way guests are drawn to the appetizers before the main courses. If guests find the main courses first, they may ignore the appetizers section entirely.
Ignoring Upsell Opportunities
While your servers are likely trained to upsell certain items, the menu can also play a role. All potential modification add-ons should be listed on the menu. If there is a burger on the menu, note the option for bacon, mushrooms, and other offerings and the additional price associated with each. If it’s right there on the menu, you won’t have to rely solely on the servers or risk missing out on easy upsell opportunities.
No Consideration for Psychology
With a basic understanding of ordering psychology, you can take advantage of little opportunities to highlight high-margin dishes on the menu. For instance, the top right corner of a menu is typically the first place guests look, making it an ideal place to feature those items. The use of photos to promote dishes is another very effective menu engineering tactic. According to FSR Magazine, photos can upsell an item up to three times as much as items that are not featured in photos. Don't forget that your menu is also a reflection of your restaurant concept and brand. Photos and other design elements should be used sparingly - if there are too many items featured in photos or called out through various design tactics, the dishes you really want to call attention to won't stand out.
A well-designed menu has the potential to make a real impact on the guest experience and your overall profits. I found these examples of menu designs to be particularly inspiring.
What other things have you considered when assembling your menu?