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Transforming The Customer Experience

5 Ways to Improve Your Restaurant Menu So You Sell More Food

Posted Mar 15, 2018 8:00:00 AM

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Your menu is more than a list of items that you sell. It’s a guide for customers to decide what to buy. You can improve your restaurant menu
to convince customers to buy certain items, choose larger sizes, and taste test your latest specials -- but it takes work. Managers need to know what they’re doing when they create a menu and why certain factors make customers spend more.

Before you redesign your menu, consider these five factors that could make or break your sales goals for the next year.   

#1) Promote the sale of specific items with photos.

Most people are visual learners and respond to visual stimulation, which means seeing a picture of the food they’re considering ordering can convince them to buy it.

In some studies, restaurants were able to boost sales by 30% by adding photos of food along with the text. Psychologists at Iowa State University conducted a study with YMCA campers in a cafeteria. Kids who saw a photo of the salad they could order were 70% more likely to choose it than if text was the only promo for the food item. The kids responded to the image in the same way they would respond to a plate of food in front of them.

Not only can you improve your restaurant menu by adding images to it, you can also test promoting specific meals by including images of them instead of others. If you’re trying to sell a specific menu item, a high-quality image could make customers buy it more.

#2) Improve your restaurant menu with descriptive titles.

There are certain words that customers respond to when they read a menu. Terms like fresh, organic, crispy, spicy, and savory all provide information about the food they’re about to order while eliciting an emotional response.

Consider the two descriptions below:

  • Farmhouse salad with arugula,  tomato, cucumber, and bacon.
  • Farmhouse salad with fresh arugula, tomato, cucumber, and crispy bacon.

Adding a few descriptive words makes the menu item seem more appealing and higher quality.

Along with featuring adjectives on your digital menu signage, consider changing the names to better express your theme. Using the same example above, a farmhouse salad sounds more organic and rustic than simply calling it a salad. This title would work for a fast casual Southern chain, regardless of whether a farmhouse actually had anything to do with the food.

A little creativity can help customers latch on to the memories associated with the food and convince them to buy your food based on their emotions -- not just their stomachs and wallets.  

#3) Invest in digital signage boards.

One way you can constantly improve your restaurant menu is with digital signage boards. More fast casual restaurants are moving toward this option in order to save money on printing fees and embrace the flexibility that comes with digital content.

A few reasons to consider making the switch to digital include:

  • You can constantly update content with better designs and layouts.
  • You can easily and affordably test different layouts to see what works.
  • You can remove out-of-stock products to prevent customer confusion and manage inventory.
  • You don’t have to keep breakfast, lunch, and dinner options up all day. You can change your menu content at different times of day using time-parting.  
  • Your customers can clearly read and understand your menu.
  • Quickly change content to meet FDA requirements for menus.

Even companies that have a relatively static menu without changing specials or different options through the day can benefit from digital signage.

Digital menu boards allow brands to constantly improve and create designs that grow their businesses.  

#4) Pay attention to how your customer’s eyes travel.

Along with making sure your menu content is clear and easy to read, there are a few tricks you can implement to convince customers to buy items with high-profit margins for your restaurant.

For example:

  • Customers tend to read a menu starting with the top right corner, making this a prime spot for dish placement.
  • Placing your most expensive dish in the first spot can boost sales, while making the rest of your dishes seem more affordable by comparison.
  • A third of diners consider ordering the first dish they see.

Starbucks is a great example of this menu placement. In the typical franchise, the customer’s eye starts in the top-right corner of the menu boards. This is where many locations post drink specials, lattes, and frappuccinos. After these more expensive items, the menu boards present drip coffee and tea, two of the less expensive categories.

Comparatively, a drip coffee seems less expensive than a latte, though many customers decide to order a seasonal item or frappuccino because they’re the first items they see.

#5) Update your menus with seasonal items and specials.

Seasonal items and specials increase foot traffic and encourage customers to buy higher-ticketed items. When customers realize they only have a limited time to buy an item, they’re likely to make an effort to stop by and enjoy it while supplies last. The McDonald's Shamrock Shake and McRib are two key examples of this.

Even monthly or weekly specials can encourage your regular customers to stray from their normal menu items and consider buying something new (and a little more expensive).

The key to selling these items is placement. By featuring the special items prominently close to the top-right corner of your menu -- or creating a special call-out sign or poster for it -- restaurant owners can ensure that their customers are informed about the new items and are eager to try them.

Upgrade Your Restaurant Menu Sooner Rather Than Later

The keys to improving your restaurant menu are testing and flexibility. Brands that try to improve their signage by following the latest, best practices are more likely to grow their sales than those who keep static signage for several months or years.

If you want to improve your sales through menu upgrades, contact us for a free consultation on digital screens and menu displays. Or, download our free ebook to learn everything you need to know about bringing digital signage into your restaurant.

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