man reading menu

3 Ways to Get More from Your Menu

An effective menu can be one of your strongest marketing tools.

You put a lot of time and effort into creating an well-designed and thought out menu. After all, your guest’s dining experience starts with a menu. Not only does your menu influence your patrons’ first impressions, but it also provides insight into the restaurant’s concept and point of difference from your competitors.

Are you committed to serving sustainably sourced ingredients?
Do you support local farmers and suppliers?
Is seasonality important to you?
Is your menu trying to tell a story?

By just reviewing your menu, your customers already have a sense of what to expect at your establishment. Therefore, you should make sure your menu is working hard for you. Here are three factors that can help take your menu to the next level.

1. Premium Ingredient Claims

Make sure your menu clearly highlights high-quality ingredients and where they come from, especially since research shows that premium ingredients can influence purchases. For example, one-third of all consumers think sustainably sourced and organic ingredients are very important in their purchasing decisions.1 Millennials are especially interested in premium foods. According to Chicago-based research firm Mintel, 62% of millennials consider themselves to be foodies, and are willing to spend more for high quality ingredients.2

Take advantage of high-value products by calling out their attributes on your menu; you may see that being transparent with your customers could result in higher profits.

When it comes to meat consumption, consumers also consider animal welfare, sustainability and meat raised without antibiotics, hormones or preservatives.3 More than 60% of consumers say “natural” meat is healthier and 33-42 percent of consumers would actually pay more for antibiotic-free proteins.4 Consumers also care about how an animal is fed—a preference toward vegetarian feeds is increasing.3 You may want to seek out meat and poultry that has been fed a 100% vegetarian diet containing no animal by-products in order to help satisfy your customers’ desire for both better-for-you proteins and animal welfare. Additionally, demand for organic meat and poultry is arguably the most noteworthy trend among the menu transparency movement, with 40% of meat eaters citing organic as important.3

2. Detailed Descriptions

Longer, more detailed menu descriptions have been shown to sell more food.5 In fact, longer descriptions have been shown to sell nearly 30 percent more, according to a Cornell study. “The more copy you use for a menu item, the less it costs in a customer’s mind because you’re giving them more for their money,” according to menu engineer Gregg Rapp.5 Plain old “roast chicken” is transformed to “slow roasted organic, free-range chicken.” Customers even rated food as better tasting when the items had longer, more detailed descriptions.5

3. Design that Aligns

Believe it or not, the look and feel of the menu can influence your guests’ experience. Consider consulting with a graphic designer who can help create a clean, aesthetically pleasing menu. Use of space, font style, size, color and paper quality are important elements to consider, especially in relation to your restaurant. For example, your menu should complement the size of the table, plate settings and even the lighting.6 Whether you use a simple menu printed on craft paper or a refined menu printed on a cream linen stock, the menu should be clear and easy to read.

Whether you decide to feature a modern, simple menu or a traditional design, it should clearly depict your restaurant’s concept while clearly communicating what sets your establishment apart. Make sure your menu calls out premium ingredients and details the description of each dish. With a little creativity and emphasis on transparency, your menu could be a marketing machine.

1Nielson, “We are what we Eat,” January 2015
2Nation’s Restaurant News, “Putting a Premium on Value,” 5/5/16
3Refrigerated & Frozen Foods, “Study: Restaurant Patrons Want Menu Transparency for Meat, Poultry,” 6/16/16
4Technomic, “Consumers Want Food Additives Subtracted from Menus, Finds Technomic’s Consumer4Sight,” 6/24/15
5Mental Floss, “8 Psychological Tricks of Restaurant Menus,” 3/30/16
6The Restaurant Times, “10 Restaurant Menu Mistakes You Did Not Know That Are Killing Your Food Business,” 9/1/16