I’ve never really given it much thought but quite a lot of effort has to be put into designing a menu. It’s an equivalent to the window displays in stores, it gives restaurants a chance to share and showcase the items they have available for customers.
It is thought that increased item awareness will significantly increase purchase likelihood (Reynolds, 2005). So some popular menu design recommendations focus on making sure that consumers know that certain products exist by repeatedly drawing attention to them or by making them more memorable.
Some examples are:
1) Items which are targeted for increased promotion through design or high profit items are recommended to be boxed or highlighted (Hopkins, 2005) or
2) Placing high profit items at spots where guests scan-paths pass through most frequently (Hallup, 1987).
3) Placing items at the beginning or the end of the list of their category options. It was found that they were up to twice as popular when placed at the beginning or the end of the list as when they were placed in the center of the list. (Hopkins, 2005; Gallup Report, 1987)
According to Dayan and Bar-Hillel (2011), given this effect, increase in favor of healthier food choices should result by placing healthier menu items at the top or bottom of the lists and the less healthier ones in their center.
The primacy and recency theory is one of the very popular theories used to explain why this happens. It refers to a person’s overall ability to more accurately recall the first and last (more recent) items of a list than any other item on that list. (McCrary & Hunter, 1953). Another popular theory is the Von Restoroff effect which is a person’s ability to more accurately recall distinctive items from a list of items that are presented in a way where they somehow violate the prevailing context of the overall presentation. (Hunt, 1005).
It is said that most people do not “read” a menu from page to page but instead they “scan” the menu with their eyes. Therefore with the use of eye magnets can help direct the gaze of the reader to where you want them to see, making that particular area stand out by using a larger or different color type font.
So here i’ve provided a few examples of such diagrams based on a two-page menu scan-path.
This is said to be cited quite often though the pattern depicted has not been empirically validated and it’ underlying reasoning has not been explained either. The most desirable locations are positions 1, 7 and 5.
William Doerfler published in an academic journal one of the first maps of customer focal points.Although no reasoning had been prodivided as to why, it is suggested that the customer focus lies in the region above a diagonal line cutting across both facing pages (shaded region). And in this, the most influential area is said to lie just above the mid point of the right page.
And lastly the Gallup Report (1987) which used an infrared pupil/corneal reflection eye tracking system to record subject’s scan-paths showing a book-like reading pattern.
I’ve also included an interesting guide i found from Softcafe.com on menu marketing.
1) Price Point Justification. Move prices into descriptions to avoid price-shopping by customers. Using the same font or slightly small and removing the dollar sign can further help customers focus on the product and not the price.
2) Item Placement.
3) Boxing. As a general rule box one out of every 8 to 10 items. It draws attention and usually get orders, so its best to use them on high profit items.
4) Page Positioning.
5) Hospitality Symbols and Icons. Make menu unique by using stars, bullets or other food symbol icons. Graphics can set items apart and icrease sales as much as 15 eprcent.
6) Keep food descriptions short, wherever possible, use word pictures rather than lengthy descriptions.
7) Showcasing. Highlight types of food with interesting menu headings such as “Fresh Pasta” or Our Specialties” instead of generic ones like ” Entrees”.
8) Know your customers. If you have customers mostly above 50, keep font large enough to read. If you’re a family style restaurant, make menus appealing by including colourful artwork, unusual fonts and lots of boxed items.
9) Using menu inserts to help promote high profit specials or new items. For example ” You can only get this here”.
10) Keep menus clean. Customers often associate a dirty menu to a dirty kitchen.
Also i’ve included here a menu placement chart i found from Barkeeper.ie for the different type of menus.
Dayan, E., & Bar-Hillel, M. (2011). Nudge to nobesity II: Menu positions influence food orders. Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 6, no. 4, June 2011, pp. 333-342.
Gallup Report. (1987). Through the Eyes of the Customer. The Gallup Monthly Report on Eating Out.
Hopkins, K. (2005). American Restaurant Menu Design. Michigan State University.
Hunt, R. (1995). The subtlety of distinctiveness: What Van Restorff really did. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 2(1), 105-112.
McCrary, J., Hunter, W.S. (1953). Serial Position Curves in Verbal Learning. Science, 117, 131-134.
Yang, S.S. Eye Movement on Restaurant Menus: A Revisitation on Gaze Movement and Consumer Scanpaths.