Written correctly, your menu is your best ambassador
Each restaurant has a brand ambassador, customer service agent and silent salesperson wrapped into a single document — its menu. Experts say the menu is a far cry from a mere list of items for sale. Rather, the design of a menu influences guest expectations and affects their purchasing behavior. Restaurateurs who understand this can use their menu’s design to increase operational efficiency, profitability and generate customer satisfaction.
So says Sybil Yang, assistant professor at San Francisco State University’s Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management. “How a menu item is named or labeled can have a profound effect on how it’s perceived,” she says. “A highly descriptive name can help create value by priming a guest with positive effects, subconsciously seeding a guest with an idea, emotion or concept.”
Brian Wansink, a researcher of food psychology and consumer behavior at Cornell University, found that when used sparingly, there are several types of descriptive labels that can increase demand for an item and improve a guest’s attitude toward it.
Geographic references imply authenticity, history and expertise, particularly when they refer to a region that is well known for a particular food, such as Alaska crab or Maine lobster. Sensory references, such as “mom’s homemade buttery warm apple crumble” create a virtual experience by evoking any of the five senses and using them to build anticipation. And nostalgic references create positive emotion by referring to people, situations, locations or occasions — such as a menu item titled “Date Night Lobster for Two.”
The copy on a menu should be written by an individual who is the heart and soul of that particular restaurant, says Gregg Rapp, a menu engineer from Palm Springs, Calif.