Business and Operations
From the Editor’s Desk: Menus that work
Menus that work
By Laura Aiken
A menu is the window into a restaurant and these days I usually peek
through the glass online before I ever get to the front door. I suspect
I’m not alone, and the combination of menu and peer review on the web is
a potent force in driving traffic to your front door.
A menu is the window into a restaurant and these days I usually peek through the glass online before I ever get to the front door. I suspect I’m not alone, and the combination of menu and peer review on the web is a potent force in driving traffic to your front door.
However, the direct mail menu is still my standby for ordering delivery. I find mostly pizza and Asian restaurant menus in my mailbox. Leafing through them now, reflecting on how menus make people buy, one particular point jumps out. I recently received three Thai menus of differing quality in paper and design, ranging from a double-sided piece of paper crammed with rather illegible fonts to a glossy fold-out brochure with professional design and photography. But the price points of the menu items were relatively the same among all three. I tend to order from the nicest menu when the meal costs are comparable because I feel as if I am being delivered food from a cleaner, more upscale, establishment, and therefore see more value in the price. Since I don’t actually visit these places, generally only ordering in from these menus, I may be completely wrong about the restaurant. But nonetheless, the attractive menu created the right impression to get me to buy.
If you are sending out your menu as part of a direct mail campaign, ask yourself how yours stacks up with the others in your mailbox. Keep in mind your menu sets the tone for price expectation. An analysis of my pile of take-out menus reveals wide variations in size, paper stock and use of photography. They are all unique but some are definitely more captivating than others. It’s great when a photo of the inside of the restaurant is featured so I can see what kind of place I am ordering from, particularly how clean an establishment it appears to be. Conversely, bad photos can come off worse than no photos. I also find it handy when daily specials are listed on the front, as I consider those first. The next thing I am looking for is a map because I tend to link this to how long it will take the food to get here (even though I realize this is more dependent on many other factors, it’s still a thought that crosses my mind). I am not representative of all customers, but I do frequently eat out and stare down the mouth of many a menu. These are just the things that stick out to me. It’s worth going through a pile of takeout menus and asking yourself what appeals to you. Then ask yourself what your menu is saying about you to those who read it.
Spelling mistakes, poor design and handwritten changes on a menu can leave as bad an impression as body odour in a job interview. Remember, a well-engineered menu that maximizes your revenue by selling more of your most profitable items can still falter if it doesn’t present well. Be sure to turn to page 12 for our cover story on putting strategy to work for you menu so it not only looks good, but sells more for you too. On the other hand, longstanding local institutions – those “hole-in-the-wall” places that have lineups out the door based on extensive word-of-mouth reputation – often have very rudimentary menus. It’s part of the experience of eating there and a classy, upscale menu would be out of place even if the prices stayed the same. If you have lineups out your door all the time then you probably aren’t worrying about improving the look of your menu anyway, but businesses with that level of success are few and far between.
It’s time for a menu check-in. Consider not only your menu’s curb appeal but also how well it’s been engineered to sell your most profitable products. It may require investment and reinvestment to keep it current, but a menu that sells is money well spent.•