9 Things You Can Do to Entice Customers to EAT

Although ZaHub primarily provides direct mail and digital advertising services, we know our way around any design piece, from business card to menu. Why? Mostly because our parent company, Strata, has been in the print design and production business since the 90s. We’ve learned what works, what doesn’t, and through research and testing – we’ve also learned why. With that said, we have some tips and tricks to share when it comes to designing menus that entice your customers to not only buy your food, but buy more food. This quick, 5-minute read will tell you what you need to know.

Tip 1: Think About the Eyes

One of the most important rules of menu design is to always think about “scanning patterns”. Where will the menu design lead the viewer’s eye? What will be the eye’s path? What do you want to be its path? Although restaurants used to see the upper right corner as the “sweet spot” for higher priced items, viewers actually read menus from left to right – like they would anything else. Yet, oppositely, some will say that there are three spots that the viewer’s eye will focus most on. These are the middle, top right, and top left (making a “Golden Triangle”). These are additional spots that you may want to use for higher priced items.

No matter what sweet spots you believe in and use, about one-third of your diners are more likely to order the first item they look at. So, if you have a particular, higher-priced or best-seller item, make sure it’s easy to find and stands out.

Customers also expect organization and sectioning – but callouts like “featured items” or “new” are sometimes a good trick as well if you’re trying to put more focus on particular items. We’ll get into this a bit more now.

Tip 2: Speaking of Sections…

Don’t make the customer work hard to find the type of food or the dish they want. Make it easy for them by creating logical sections, whether that be by category or by timing. For example, if you’re sectioning by category, you’d provide areas for things like meats, vegetables, low calorie, vegan, pastas, etc. If you’re sectioning by timing, you’d provide areas like “appetizers”, “main course”, and “dessert”. To further divide the menu and make it easier for the viewer to understand what’s available to them, use boxes and dividers.

Tip 3: Think Through Your Sizes

In any piece of design, it’s important to use different fonts and font sizes to create hierarchy (further sectioning) and showcase specific callouts or items. It’s also imperative that the fonts are legible and clear. Think about your target audience when it comes to style and sizing. What will they find interesting? What will they have trouble reading? No matter what, your font choices should match the feeling and brand of your shop or restaurant.

Additionally, make sure your menu size makes sense. If your menus themselves are too large, they can become annoying and overwhelming at the table. Yet, too small of a menu can be hard to read. If you’re unsure, you can always go with a board-only menu at the front of your shop, or go digital-only with a QR code menu. That way, customers can decide for themselves how close they need to be to read it, or whether or not they need to zoom in on their phone.

Tip 4: Avoid Dollar Signs

Studies have shown that customers spend more money if they don’t see dollar signs on the menu. If they’re already out and ordering food from a restaurant or pizza shop, they’re already aware that it costs money – don’t remind them. In fact, a recent study showed that customers who ordered from a menu without dollar signs ($) spent more than those who’s menus had priced out items.

Tip 5: Be Particular with Photography, Imagery, & Color

It can be good to show a few well-photographed items on your menu, but if you don’t have the best photography, it’s always better to leave the quality to the imagination of the customer. “Photos of food are more commonly associated with junk mail fliers and big chain restaurants like Denny’s; not high-end restaurants. If you do use photos, they must be of extremely high professional quality”. In other words, it’s better to use no photos than use bad ones.

Illustrations or small icons can often work better – they can make the menu easier to digest and more visually appealing than just words. And again, all photos, images, and colors should match the feeling and brand of your shop or restaurant to create brand consistency and provide customers with a streamlined experience.

Tip 6: Be Purposeful with Colors

As you may know, colors not only create recognition, but have psychological effects. Some are actually more likely to make customers hungry than others.

You may have even noticed that many food companies use red and yellow in their logos and designs. Why? Because yellow is a color that makes you hungry, and red evokes passion, stimulation, and excitement. Other colors have different effects too, such as blue, which is actually used as a hunger suppressant (often found in diet program logos and brands), white, which shows cleanliness, but can be boring, black which is elegant but not the most appetizing, the list goes on. Make sure you’re considering what your colors are evoking for the viewer in terms of their senses when designing anything for your shop – especially the menu. And – don’t be scared of a little white space. You don’t have to clutter your menu – as customers often don’t like to look at (and get overwhelmed by) too much color.

Tip 7: Give Enough Options – But Not Too Many

Since it’s already (often) a difficult decision for customers to decide where to go for food, don’t give them another tough decision when it comes to their food choice. Make sure you have enough variety on your menu, but not so much so that your customers take forever to order. “Having a super-long menu can also hurt sales: When it takes longer for guests to place their orders, it slows down the table turn time, so your front of house staff will serve fewer guests in a shift.”

When faced with too many options, customers can experience “analysis paralysis,” which can make guests feel anxious about what they should order. So – pick the best items, not all the items. With this in mind, if you notice something is never ordered, remove or replace it as soon as you can.

Tip 8: Use Descriptive and Strong Wording

As we said before, menu design is all about the senses. Now that the customer is (likely) in your shop or restaurant while viewing your menu, the goal is to make their mouth water for that first slice, or for more. Before writing your menu items, do your research. Think through all of the descriptive elements of your food, as well as the key (most enticing) ingredients. Describe the food in inviting ways with descriptive words and phrases.

With all this in mind, don’t forget to think through the type of shop or restaurant you have when writing out your menu. Will people have the time to read a descriptive paragraph, or just a simple phrase? Either way, the tone and voice of your menu should match that of your shop.

Tip 9: Optimize for Digital/Mobile

Last but not least – everyone’s using digital these days – and it’s possible that your customers will want to decide what to order before coming to your restaurant. They’ll search for your online menu first, and likely from their mobile device, or they’ll access the menu on their phone while at your shop or restaurant. For both of these reasons, make sure your digital menu is as clear and as effective as your in-person menu options, and that you test it on both desktop and mobile to ensure it fits and is easy to view and read.

We know you don’t always have time to think through all of this – but the next time you’re updating your menu, give it a second look. Is it meeting the above criteria? If you have more questions or concerns related to design and marketing, feel free to give us a call.