Anchoring Consumer Choice on Non-traditional Menus

By Michael Barbera CEO, Barbera Solutions | April 16, 2017

The food service industry is volatile due to the low barrier to entry, high level of competition and significantly low-profit margins. Foodservice operators are likely to reduce expenditures and save money wherever possible. Additionally, food service operators are known for being creative to attain an advantage on the competition. Designing menus that are less taxing on the consumer’s choice are a common approach to increasing revenue and enhancing the consumer experience. Furthermore, unique menus are likely to attribute to an improved consumer experience that carries an intangible value of word of mouth marketing between consumers.

Approximately 40 percent of North Americans eat at least one meal a day away from home, yet most colonial Americans never dined in a restaurant. Colonial Americans did eat away from home during church socials, funerals, weddings, and other special occasions. As early as the late seventeenth century, Colonial Americans began to frequent taverns, inns and boarding houses. Ironically, at this time, these establishments were required by law to offer meals for sale to travelers and workers that were away from home.

The requirement to offer food for sale meant the need for having a list of items for sale, hence, the menu was born. Although the menu has changed in appearance and format since Delmonico’s in the 1800s, the menu continues to serve the same purpose: to be the best marketing document. The menu is nearly guaranteed to be read by every patron. Best Buy and Walmart cannot claim that every customer reads a list of each product for sale.

Non-traditional menus such as chalkboard and tablets are growing in popularity throughout the United States. There is a significant amount of research that suggests anchoring menu items and prices entice a consumer to make a choice that best aligns with a restaurant’s profit margin. As technology changes our behavior, and how individuals choose to engage with brands, restaurants have proven to change their approach to the consumer experience.

It is common to visit restaurants that use tablets for menus or provide a tablet with each seat at the restaurant to keep the consumer occupied. Additionally, there is research that suggests table turnover times have decreased at such restaurants, which is likely to affect revenue for the restaurant and income for servers who rely on tips for compensation.

Research Questions and Hypothesis

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