Menu Hacks: How to Maximize Customer Spending

Push Operations
December 10, 2020

The decor and music is what sets the atmosphere for your restaurant, but the menu is your best way to persuade your customers to buy more. There are many mistakes that can trigger price anxiety in your customers or even confuse them about what to pick. However, all of these can be solved with a few psychological tricks that will make your dishes look reasonably priced, high-quality, and irresistible to customers.

Read on for 3 science-backed strategies you can start using right away!

1. Put the most expensive items at the top of the menu

To avoid price shopping, you can manipulate the perspective on the menu. One of the oldest tricks in the book is to place the most expensive item near the top of the menu. By contrast, everything else on the menu will seem reasonably priced. Slightly more expensive dishes usually send the message of higher quality ingredients, and in most cases, they are. Hand in hand with quality, is cost. Customers may leave more satisfied under the assumption that food items are fresher when they are higher priced. One study shows that participants who ate foods from a more expensive buffet rated the food as tastier compared to cheaper options. What the participants didn’t know? Food from the pricier buffet was the same food served at the cheaper buffet. The way we manipulate perception can build customer loyalty and convince people to come back for more.

2. The paradox of choice and why less is more

Limit the choices your customers have on the menu. It may seem that variety is a good thing, but it has the potential to make your customers anxious. What should they choose? There’s so much to pick from! The anxiety felt by not being able to make a choice when overwhelmed with options is referred to by psychologists as the “paradox of choice”. One of the best examples of having too much to choose from is McDonald’s. Initially, they served a few items but now have over 100 on their menu. The result? The chain’s revenue is dipping. Experts claim that one of the causes of customer dissatisfaction is the fear of making the wrong choice when picking items. If you want to prevent customer anxiety, stick to a few dishes to increase your chances of building customer loyalty.

3. Longer, visual descriptions sell more food

Play around with the perceptions customers have around food. Like naming a dessert like chocolate custard, a "pot de crème." A study shows that using more detailed descriptions or creative names for otherwise plain, traditional desserts not only sell more but also causes them to be rated as tastier. The names of the items of the menu impact the customer’s perception of the price and taste. For example, the perception is different when you serve dark chocolate cake or when you serve gâteau au chocolat noir.

4. Monetize off of the second cheapest item

When selecting wine options, most customers will not choose the least expensive item on the menu for fear of looking cheap. Instead, customers tend to pick the second lowest priced item.  Get your sommelier to pick a really good tasting, inexpensive wine. You can increase its price on your menu and make it the second lowest priced item. This will drive profits from sales. But make sure to have your costing strategy down before applying this to your menu designs.

Wrapping up

Whether you choose to manipulate pricing or to limit the choices of your customers, you have to keep in mind that each restaurant has an ideal customer. Is your ideal customer sold on price or on the experience of high-end, fancy plates? Before you implement any of the hacks shown above, you have to think about what expectations your ideal client has and how you can meet them.