Businesses are constantly cooking up different ways to influence the decision-making process of customers – and this is no different in a restaurant. The best place to shake things up is to change your menu because patrons will definitely take a second look at it. The restaurant industry takes menu redesign seriously, there is even a menu engineer for this. In this blog, we will look at a few tricks of menu engineering that you can try in your restaurant.

Mouthwatering menu descriptions

Do not make a patron read descriptions to get an idea of what they will order. The idea is to allow customers to get the basic information instantly. If you can do that with the dish’s name, even better. So instead of “Joe’s Special”, use “Joe’s Lasagna Special”. It offers the right amount of mystery to entice the patron to read on.

If the name of the dish hasn’t done its job of enticing the patron enough, the descriptive copy below it must play that role. You have to use alluring words like meld, tangy, juicy, fresh, irresistible and taste sensation. Do not compromise on the integrity of your menu description by getting it done in a rush. Take your time with it.

So instead of saying:

Chocolate cheesecake with a glass of Saracco Moscato d’Asti


The sparkly, candied essence of a glass of Saracco Moscato d’Asti paired with our rich, airy and semisweet cheesecake

Split your menu ideas

Appetisers, entrées, desserts and drinks are categories everyone is familiar with. The problem is that categories and sections often get jumbled up i.e. putting a vegan dish with meat dishes because they are both main meals. Once you have a list of categories, separate them into sections. This is where you must become more specific.

For instance, separate vegetarian, seafood and meat entrées and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. This makes it easier for people to find what they want. Because you control the order of your dishes, you have to be strategic about it.

Menu engineers advise restaurants to display dishes according to a four-quadrant system which includes:

  • Stars – high profitability and high popularity. Use data to determine your star dishes, (you can use PoS software to help you with this). Once identified, ensure they are clearly labelled as your “star” dishes. Make the dish stand out by placing an arrow or a star next to it or even putting it in bold text. Our eyes naturally seek out white space and some restaurants use this to their advantage by placing popular dishes on their own. When patrons look at a menu, they often start in the middle, travel to the top right corner then the left. This has been dubbed “The Golden Triangle” by menu engineers. Since this is the prime real estate on a menu, you will find popular dishes displayed in the middle.
  • Plow-horse – low profitability and high popularity. The aim of this dish is to create more versions of your star dishes. Say that three types of burgers do incredibly well, create smaller versions and turn them into a three-burger combo.
  • Puzzles high profitability and low popularity. More investigations must be conducted into these types of dishes, so get your waiters to suggest them and to ask patrons for their feedback.
  • Dogs – low profitability and low popularity. Even when dishes don’t generate significant profit, they still need to be placed on the menu. A grilled cheese sandwich will catch the eye of young patrons, but it might not always be selling well. Place them on your menu, but do not put any extra effort into promoting them, like putting a photo next to the dish.

Design, layout and colour

Avoid overloading your patrons with too much to consider. Create a logical arrangement for your menu design that won’t take too much effort to follow. Place high-resolution, professional photographs that are visually appealing and evoke an emotion in a patron by using high-contrast colour schemes. Keep in mind the psychology of colour when creating and placing photographs on your menu. Green implies fresh food, orange stimulates the appetite and yellow is a happy colour, so it can be used to catch the reader’s attention. Red encourages action, so use it to persuade the ordering of high-priced dishes.

When it comes to menu planning, there is no such thing as overplanning. Our PoS software can help you with that. To better plan your menu ideas in line with our software, read our guide to modern-day Point of Sale.

Author: Rudi Badenhorst