Menu Engineering: Design That Affects How You Dine
—M. M. Leonard
If you've dined out before, there's a good chance that your choices of food and drink were influenced by factors you weren't even aware of. Menu engineering is the practice of designing menus to influence what customers order and increase the amount they spend. In fast-food joints, neighborhood cafes, and upscale restaurants alike, menu engineering employs various tricks to draw the attention of hungry patrons.
The physical design of the menu is one such influencing factor. Heavy menus with thick binding are commonly associated with quality food. Where an item is listed on a menu also matters. The upper-right corner on a menu is where most customers look first, and many establishments place their most profitable item there. In addition, hiding the price under the name of the item and leaving off the currency symbol leave customers feeling less price-conscious.
The general visual design of a menu is critical. Yellow and red are considered the most effective colors for drawing the eye and arousing the appetite. Photos of juicy meats, melting cheese, and rich chocolate treats are known to increase sales by as much as 30 percent. Boxes, symbols, and bold type can be used to highlight menu items with the highest prices as well.