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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Psychology of Menu Marketing

People spend a lot of time looking at restaurant menus--ordering can be serious stuff! It's no surprise that corporate restaurants hire psychologists, designers, and marketers to optimize their menus for increased sales and higher volumes of better margin products. Below I've outlined a few of the tactics restaurant chains use to steer diners toward their preferred items as they navigate a menu.

  • Price Anchoring: Price anchoring is a common tactic used to ground a user on a high price in an effort to increase their willingness to pay.  By establishing a baseline for price at a high level, all other prices suddenly look low relative to the high price.  
  • Visual Cues: Basic changes in visual treatment can also be used to increase sales of more profitable meals.  The use of boxes, photos, and large font sizes are common ways that this can be accomplished. Another visual tactic is to avoid the use of dollar signs ($) before prices, avoiding the psychological trigger of values being perceived as costs.  See the Panera Bread menu above for an example of a menu that's lost its price tags.
  • Information Overload: As menus are more packed with statistics like calories, nutrition facts, and prices, opportunity presents itself for the menu marketer.  By matching lower calorie meals with higher prices, diners are forced to make a tradeoff between healthy choices and their dollars.