For restaurants owners, poor menu design and planning is a common source of margin contraction. In response, a cottage industry of menu engineers offer ways to get diners thinking more about exciting and fulfilling flavors and less about prices and nutrition. You might have observed slight menu adjustments for purposes of revenue enhancement such as dropping the "$" sign from prices or adding a brand name to items like Jack Daniel's Dipping Sauce. In fact, there is a lot more going on. According to William Poundstone, the most effective tactics include:
- Extremeness Aversion: People have an inexact sense of value but are acutely sensitive to contrasts. A typical scenario is the prominent display of a $69 premium cut of beef listed directly above a $36 skirt steak. Diners shy away from the most expensive item -- or the least expensive, for that matter - and order the item the appears to be relatively cheap. Likewise, the second-most expensive bottle on a wine list tends to be a top seller.
- "For Two": Such items cater to the psychology of couples having romantic dinners. The 25-minute preparation time and the sharing make it seem like a special event. Couples are among the least price-sensitive consumers (who wants to look cheap on a date?) and have more things on their minds than math. The price is given per person, but many will forget to double it.
- Bracketing: The practice of offering items in two sizes - this has the allure of discounts and usually increases orders. The smaller portions make you feel you've saved money -- and calories.
- Boxing: The eyes are drawn to boxes, and diners are statistically more likely to order whatever is inside them. Restaurants reserve them for profitable items or dishes the chef wants to promote.
- Center Justification: When prices are printed in neat, right-justified columns, everyone glances down the line to compare prices. Menu consultants recommend a center justification that leaves the prices scattered. This gently encourages the diner to order what she wants, not pick the cheapest price.
William Poundstone is the author of: Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It).
by Simons Chase - LBS.CO