Higher profits through clever menu engineering

Case studies
2016 Feb 09
By Matej Sucha

Higher profits through clever menu engineering

The task was to help one café increase sales volume and subsequently profits. We decided to approach the problem in a very cost effective and innovative way. 

The underlying finding of our solution is that customers usually do not know what they want and decide based on many subconscious impulses. These impulses come from several sources, but of course the most explicit one is the menu itself. Surprisingly, not only the menu, but also the smell and music can have significant impact on orders. One study for instance showed that playing pop background music compared to classical music decreased sales by incredible 10%.

While tests for optimal music and smell are still ongoing, we can briefly summarize how we changed the café’s menu.

Since we were dealing with a very popular café, there was no need to promote coffee itself. On the other hand sales of small meals needed a real boost. The first thing we did was to move meals to the beginning of the menu. In this way everyone reading the menu at least sees the list of meals and the odds of ordering one go significantly up.

Another important thing we did was to shift customers’ focus away from prices, towards the menu items themselves. This consists in several steps but two most important ones are the following:

  1. Make prices less visible, and make the comparison of prices less straightforward. In practice this means that the prices shouldn’t be aligned in a column (which makes the comparison extremely easy) but rather stated directly after the meal description. The font used for prices shouldn’t be more marked than the font used for meals, rather the opposite.
  2. Remove the currency signs. These evoke payments, and the last thing you want your customers to think about when ordering food is the bill.

Cross-sell is another way to boost sales. It can be done either by waiters (which is the next task this café prepared for us) or directly in the menu. The new menu contains short suggestions about what to eat with wine or what cake goes best with coffee. The role of these suggestions is to attract customers’ attention to items and combinations they wouldn’t otherwise think of. 

Understanding the psychology behind menus is called menu engineering and, if done well, it is a great and inexpensive way for restaurants to significantly increase their profits. 

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