Menu Psychology: Stop Making Meals and Start Creating Experiences
By Michael Barbera CEO, Barbera Solutions | August 2016
Here's why I admire menus: it's the only marketing content that's guaranteed to be read. Once the consumer is seated at a table, they are almost guaranteed to make a purchase. Less than one percent of patrons are likely to depart a restaurant after being seated. Therefore, 99 percent is an outstanding conversion rate that digital marketers would sell their first born to achieve. I would say congrats to all the restaurateurs for achieving this amazing feat of feasts, but we have to be forthright, your margins are miserable. The purpose for our research was to understand how consumers increase spending after viewing a menu, and we've discovered that creating an experience is the catalyst.
First, you control the room. We transition the meal to a consumer experience that cannot be matched by competitors. By doing so, we control the esthetics, environment, verbiage, emotions, and more importantly the price, which is a communication multiplier.
I've met many restaurateurs that placed menu items on their menu solely because they felt it was the appropriate location. This was repeatedly executed without rhyme, reason or research. However, the consumers didn't miss out. The consumers likely enjoyed a good tasting meal with friends or colleagues, but it's likely the restaurant that missed the opportunity to increase revenue.
Margins are a restaurant's worst nightmare. Variable costs and expiration dates on perishables could decimate a restaurant if not carefully accounted for. Margins are difficult and challenging, but can be increased through the sale of additional items.
I'm sure you have been to a Chili's restaurant. Remember the time you were visually scanning the menu. You likely identified a small chili pepper similar to the restaurant's logo, which was carefully placed next to a few menu items. We see this and we overtly think, "this must be a good item, it's recommended by Chili's". This statement couldn't be more inaccurate. The clever marketers at Chili's meticulously placed these enticing Chili's next to menu items that consisted of the best margins. These items earned the company the most profit. Of course they want you to buy it, it's a significant return on investment.
The type of menu presented to the consumer is equally as important as what's listed on the menu. The menu's look, touch, feel and smell should correspond with the environment and esthetics of the restaurant as well as cater to those who are in the restaurant's target audience. This is a topic that could easily fill a book (a big book!). There are single page menus, bi-fold's, tri-fold's, plastic covered and wooden menus. Choose the one or several that are most appropriate for your restaurant.