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Restaurant Marketing, Customer Acquisition, Automation

10 Restaurant Menu Psychological Hacks To Increase Your Revenue

The restaurant menu is a main driving force in getting customers in the door so it is imperative that you get this right.

But it’s a tricky one as the prices on the restaurant menu directly affect your restaurant’s profitability, so you can’t go too low or too high. It’s got to be just perfect.

After you’ve figured out your ideal food-cost percentage (usually between 20% and 40%) to make your business profitable, you may want to use some of these menu-psychology tricks to help nudge your diners to make the choices that work best for your business.

1) Anchoring – Put your priciest dish up top!

This is an oldie but goody. Place the most expensive and least value-for-money dish as your very first menu item. It will act as an “anchor” and set the standard for comparison for other items on the menu.

Have a look at this restaurant menu from a celebrity favourite (we’re talking Tom Cruise, David Beckham and Anna Wintour, to name a few!) in New York, Balthazar. The trendy restaurant is unabashedly using one of the the most classic tricks of menu psychology.

Restaurant menu 1

By putting high-profit items next to the exorbitantly-priced “anchor” of Le Balthazar, dishes such as Le Grand or any other seafood plates seem pretty cheap. And THOSE are the money-makers that bring in the most profit for the restaurant.


2) Box it in:

Use a box to draw the eye to the dish you want your diners to order. And better yet, place it near the anchor item – it’ll look like a steal! A $24 shrimp cocktail on the Balthazar restaurant menu seems expensive? Not compared to the the $175 extravaganza Le Balthazar seafood platter, it doesn’t!


3) Bracketing:

The “trick” here is providing two size options for the same dish. The Butternut Squash Agnolotti at Balthazar is priced at $22 for the smaller portion and $31 for the large. The customer never really gets to find out how much smaller the small portion is. The eye is naturally drawn to the smaller number because you tend to assume it is a bargain. In reality, the lower price is what the restaurant intended to charge for the dish, no matter the size.


4) Stars at the top, dogs at the bottom:

Put your “star” dishes (popular items that customers are willing to pay a waaaay more than they cost to make) at the top right corner and leave the bottom left corner for menu “dogs” (unpopular and unprofitable).

There is a fair bit of debate regarding how people’s eyes naturally travels around a menu but the common belief in the world of menu psychology is that diners start reading the menu from top right and end up at the bottom left.

Here’s a simple diagram to show you where your stars, horses (staples like soup and salad that are popular but not so profitable), puzzles (high-profit but unpopular dishes) and dogs belong on your menu.


5) Describe your “stars”:

If you want people to order your “star” dishes, use evocative language that can pique a diner’s interest. Tell them why it’s on the menu (humanise the dishes if you can, saying it’s your grandmother’s recipe or your favorite dessert as a child) and mention brand names (i.e. Iberico ham, Hollandaise, hint of truffle oil, tarragon…) to give your dish the perception of quality.

Lunch Menu 26) Magic number 9:

Ending prices with the number 9 is one of the oldest pricing methods in the book. Naysayers may say it doesn’t really work, but according to research from the journal Quantitative Marketing and Economics, it sure does! Prices ending in 9 were so effective they were able to outsell even lower prices for the exact same product.

People tend to be clueless about prices. Contrary to economic theory, we don’t really decide between A and B by consulting our invisible price tags and purchasing the one that yields the higher utility, he says. We make do with guesstimates and a vague recollection of what things are “supposed to cost.” – William Poundstone


7) Take away the $ sign:

Leave the $ sign out if you want to get your clients to spend at your restaurant. A dollar sign is a trigger – it makes you think of money. And you want your customers to only think of food until you serve them their bill at the end of the meal.

bsk-lunch-dinner-menu-28) Increase the price of the second most expensive bottle of wine:

The second most expensive wine on the menu is the most popular. Price this bottle to be your most profitable as this will usually be the go-to one for a lot of customers. The most expensive bottle is usually the anchor which will encourage diners to make the “sensible” decision of going with the reasonably-priced-yet-still-excellent No. 2 option.

9) No columns, no dots:

Don’t list the prices in a column, your customers are bound to choose from the cheapest items (and in this economy, there’s no shame in that). Also, another no-no are the leader dots, which draw the diners’ gaze away from the dishes to the prices.


10) Split your restaurant menu into categories:

For clarity’s sake, break your restaurant menu up into categories like appetizers, entrees, a la carte, drinks, vegetarian, etc. Also, industry experts say people are most likely to pick the first choice in those categories, so make that dish your most profitable one. For example, under “Chicken,” the first dish should be your star, which will bring you the most profit.

“For two”:

A clever way to get diners to order a big-ticket dish is to make it seem reasonable by labelling it as “for two.” Customers will be parting with more money but will happily do so because they will feel they’re getting a bargain.

“Prix fixe”:

Offer a “prix fixe” (fixed price in French) for a two- or three-course set meal. Your diners may be duped into committing to a three-course meal under the guise that it is a great deal. Therefore, when in the absence of a set menu, they may have just gone with one entree.

Restaurant Menu 3


To get your diners to a order a little more and order the ‘correct’ items on your menu, don’t just throw all your hopes on fixing the menu itself.

No matter how well constructed is your restaurant menu, if your diners feels that they are overpaying for the quality of food they are served, they will not come back again. Period.

However when you get your food done right, the rewards of having a well thought menu makes a large difference.

I hope I was able to get you guys to rethink about your menu.

Finally, what other tips have you tried before? Have you tried the above and got results?

Digital marketing strategist and co-founder of Chatobook. He consults client in digital marketing and business strategies. A poker expert if he can maintain his poker face.

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