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A Crash Course in Website Menu Design Psychology

Posted by Marvin Doerfler on 5/11/16 7:00 AM in Menu Management

3 minute read Print

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Most savvy restaurant managers know how to use menu psychology to maximize a customer’s order. By using strategic design, layout, and text, you can guide your customer’s attention and actions as they browse your menu in your restaurant. However, what happens when customers browse your menu online?

Your online menu may be the first brush customers have with your business, which means it plays a vital role in attracting clientele to your location. Additionally, online orders tend to be more substantial than orders made on site, so it makes good business sense to optimize your online menu. With so much depending on it, your website's menu should follow the new rules of online menu psychology. 

Make It Readable And Functional

A website is only as effective as its user experience, which means it should be engaging and functional. If customers grow frustrated or annoyed with your online menu, they are likely to leave the website altogether. Make your menu easy to read and to navigate. That means no grainy cell phone pictures of your paper menu and no PDF files customers have to download (they won’t).

Instead, create a clearly typed menu in a readable font. Divide your menu into small, easy to read sections (e.g. breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, etc.) and avoid lengthy lists of items. You can use hyperlinks to allow customers to expand descriptions of particular items or jump to another menu section. You can still employ some of the “old” tricks of menu psychology with online menus too, like using bold font types to strategically draw the eye to items you want customers to focus on.

Use Strong Visuals 

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Including pictures on a paper menu can be tricky. Photos of food help by directing the eye toward profitable menu items, but they can cause a menu to look cheap if the pictures aren’t high quality. Online menus make sharing pictures of your food much easier. You don’t have to worry about printing quality in order to use pictures to guide customers’ attention and increase sales.

Your images should look as professional as possible. If potential customers are looking for your restaurant online, they are likely to come across pictures on sites like Yelp. Food photos taken by other customers tend to be less flattering, even if the reviews are great. Ensure customers see the best visual representation of the food you serve by including professional images on your official online menu. 

Show Social Proof

The dynamic and interactive nature of an online menu allows you to use social proof to your advantage. Social proof is a phenomenon where people will adopt the actions or opinions of a group of others they trust. Social media is a great way to use social proof to boost your online presence. Reposting positive Facebook reviews, showing off your Instagram feed, and sharing pictures of happy diners in your restaurant are all ways to show potential customers how others are already enjoying your food.

A simple way to increase your online presence and social proof strategy is to encourage customers in your restaurant to "like" and post about you on social media. When a customer compliments the food or service, have your staff ask them to post their positive thoughts on social media if possible.

Encourage Online Ordering

When people peruse an online menu, they are generally under less pressure to make up their mind quickly. They can take their time looking through all of their options and notice dishes they may not see sitting down with a paper menu at the table. This not only makes upselling easier, it also leads to customers spending more when they order online or over the phone.

You can encourage customers to expand on their original order by adding side dishes or customizing their food. People hesitate to put in larger, more complicated orders in person. When an order can be customized with a simple click, customers are more likely to click away and put in a bigger, more expensive order of food online.

Make the Most of Online Menus With Menu Psychology

Menu psychology is hardly a thing of the past, but the basics of menu psychology change when you put your menu online. Digital menus need to be especially easy to read and navigate. You can still design your menu to highlight certain items with fine-tuned text and professional pictures, but now you can add social media elements to boost your credibility and the ability to order online to increase sales. Be sure to use the new approach to menu psychology with your online menu to grow your restaurant business in the digital age.  

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Written by: Marvin Doerfler

Marvin Doerfler has been designing and producing menus, wine lists and other brand building graphics for upscale restaurants and hotels for over 40 years. He learned his trade working with such iconic restaurants as The Four Seasons, Café des Artistes, Mamma Leones and Lüchows. In, 2001 Mr. Doerfler changed his focus by offering the same creative products on a non-exclusive basis through his web company, The Menu Shoppe. You can follow The Menu Shoppe on Twitter and Facebook or visit their blog.


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