The world of food and the art of fine dining has developed a critical look at food and gastronomy. The market and the needs of consumers and guests in the world of Food & Beverage have definitely changed. Indeed, the consumer’s eye is more sensitive, critical and is always looking for an emotional experience, not just a culinary one.
One element that is often overlooked as a distinctive aspect of an excellent restaurant experience is the menu, that essential tool used to propose specific courses. What makes the difference is ‘how’ the proposal is made and how the menu is designed and created. In detail, we are talking about menu engineering, a combination of marketing, psychology and design. This system of menu development is an initial investment that will pay off in terms of the restaurant’s success.
So how can we create an effective menu that engages and guides customers’ choices, and not just provide a characterless list of courses?
Let us look together at some of the most important rules to follow:
- Include too few courses: too much choice leads to confusion and can ruin the opportunity for the F&B Manager to guide the guest towards certain options. In addition, a more conscious proposal will lower the level of waste and optimise costs and revenue
- Choose a strategic position: often, the dish we see first and which catches our attention will decide our choice
- Respect the golden triangle rule: it is necessary to consider the space in which the eye moves, i.e. in a triangle. Usually in a one-sided or three-sided menu, our eye falls first to the centre, then goes up to the top right-hand corner and then to the top left-hand corner, and finally down to the bottom ù
- Use effective terms: it is essential to describe the courses using emotional and sometimes sensationalist adjectives to create a specific expectation (e.g. tiramisu: spoon dessert consisting of ladyfingers soaked in coffee covered with a soft mascarpone cream and a dusting of cocoa powder).
By following these rules, we can achieve a successful menu, a real sales tool and the restaurant’s business card. In addition to these rules, there are many other factors to consider in menu engineering, such as structure, fonts chosen, layout and colours.
To better understand this, several studies published by professionals have appeared since the 1980s, including that of two university professors, M.L. Kasavana and D.J. Smith. Their theory was based on the belief that a guest’s choice in a restaurant could be influenced by the composition and arrangement of items on the menu.
In fact, in 1982, the two professors proposed a method of analysis that, as a parameter, used the contribution margin (the profit obtained by subtracting the cost of raw materials from the final selling price), of the dishes instead of the food cost percentage. Four new categories are thus identified to identify the type of dishes on the menu:
- Stars: dishes with a high popularity but a high contribution margin
- Plowhorses: dishes with a high popularity but a low contribution margin
- Dogs: dishes with a low popularity and with a low contribution margin
- Puzzles: dishes with a low popularity but a high contribution margin (find out more)
Starting from this classification, it is also necessary to carry out a ‘psychological’ analysis of the menu. Specifically, a key role is played by elements such as layout, the format of the layout, the fonts used, colours and prices. For example, the price layout always plays its part; in fact, it is advisable not to position the prices in rows one below the other on the right-hand side of the menu, because a person’s eye will tend to focus precisely on that area, giving preference to their spending budget and not to the sensations conveyed by the courses on offer. It is therefore advisable to use the alignment of the text in the centre and place the prices just below the description of the dish in order to draw the attention of guests and customers to the description of the dish rather than its economic value.
As a virtuous example and in order to see the aspects just described in a tangible way, we propose below the new menu of the Al Tramonto Restaurant in the magical Cape of Senses facility on Lake Garda.
To give you further food for thought, let’s look in detail at the following analysis, published by Unilever Food Solutions, which shows the first points visible to our eye in a menu and what path the eye tracks:
As you can see, there are many theories proposed for this theme, but the difference is definitely made by the staff who, through storytelling, have a responsibility to enhance this sales tool and at the same time must create an emotional bond with their guests and customers.
Indeed, it is the individual professional who must create ‘the magic’ to transform the guest’s experience into a positive memory.
INVEST in this tool, APPLY all these theories and CREATE the authentic experience.
Hospite – The Italian Hospitality Academy