our menu is the single most profitable piece of your restaurant business, yet too often it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Your day-to-day management responsibilities can be so challenging that they leave precious little time for making long-term strategic decisions that maximize profitability. Here’s how you can utilize your menu to guide guests to your most profitable items:
Menu Design Strategies
These visual and verbal psychology tactics will motivate your guests to order your most profitable menu items:
- Highlight items. Use shading and graphics to make your most profitable dishes really stand out. Try placing a box around them, or including a drawing or photograph. Most restaurants group items under headings such as beef, chicken, or pasta. Since many of your guests will likely choose between the first two items under each of these headings, your most profitable dishes should occupy the lead position.
- Limit choices. The “paradox of choice” informs us that offering guests too many options increases their anxiety and inhibits their ability to arrive at a decision. Instead of offering entrees separately, consider pairing them with salads or appetizers. You could also include a drink or dessert. Try limiting menu items to no more than 7 selections per category.
- Use anchor items. Anchor items are pricey menu offerings that rarely sell due to their high cost. They can, however, make many of your other menu items seem like a relative bargain. By placing an anchor item next to those selections providing the highest profit margins, you encourage your guests to order items that are more reasonably priced - but still quite profitable.
The right pricing strategies can provide a psychological advantage:
Eliminate dollar signs and adjust prices. Raise your check average by eliminating dollar signs. Your guests are likely to spend significantly more when dollar signs are not included on the menu. This is because they serve as a constant reminder of the “pain” associated with spending money. Prices ending in 99 imply value, while those ending in 95 suggest friendliness.
Don’t emphasize price. Focus your guests’ attention on the quality of your menu selections - not the price. Use descriptive language and enticing adjectives such as ‘line-caught’ and ‘sun-dried’ to create a sensory experience and encourage guests to order more. Instead of listing your prices in a column, consider placing them directly after your appealing menu descriptions - using the same size and font as the description in order to deemphasize price.
Use price bracketing. Consider offering the same dish in both a smaller and a larger size. Your guest will likely assume that the smaller portion is the superior value since it costs less, but it can actually be more profitable for you due to lower raw materials costs. Your guest takes pride in their frugality and restraint while you make more money - a win-win.
Follow these steps to steer guests toward your higher-priced menu items, and raise your check average while increasing guest satisfaction.