Psychological optimization for profitable menus

Proven tricks from restaurant veterans.We have talked to numerous chefs and restaurant owners during the last couple of months, assembling a list of the most useful hacks for creating the most profitable menu for your restaurant."A menu is just a piece of paper that says how much a dish costs!" Whoever thinks that, makes a big - and usually expensive - mistake. Your menu (and of course your drinks menu or wine list) is your virtual waiter, your printed salesman, who not only tells your guest the price of a meal, but can also do much more - if you know how.



No matter where in the gastronomy, whether in the Michelin-starred restaurant or in the canteen - your menu can convey a feeling of high quality to your customer. Or not at all.  Whether the price of a meal is high or low depends above all on whether your menu has been designed effectively from the point of view of sales psychology.How to use price psychology to design your menu effectively and earn significantly more.Especially when redesigning a menu, you can make a lot of mistakes from a price psychological point of view - or you can make a lot of mistakes, depending on the situation. Read below what and how.

How to create a profitable menu in 10 steps? 


1. Menus: How to use psychological price limits

Whether you charge 4.80 or 4.90 for a drink in the catering trade makes no difference to your guest. The price is less than 5 Dollar. For you, on the other hand, your contribution margin may increase quite a bit - especially if you don't sell one of these drinks in the course of a day, but maybe fifty. Or a hundred. Hundreds of 10 cents make a difference - and that's just one drink! However, you can apply this system to the entire menu or wine list - whether drinks or food.


2. Let the price on the menu appear lower, even though it remains the same

How does that work, you ask? Comparing prices. The feeling for the value of a price results from a comparison. Namely, in your case in gastronomy, from the comparison with your other dishes and drinks, the prices of other restaurateurs or with the size of your guest's wallet.The price perception goes back to the patterns and beliefs of your guests, which have been imprinted for years and are mostly completely unconscious. They are responsible for the perception "cheap", "expensive" or even "too expensive".Priming, a form of unconsciously influencing perception and decision-making processes, also contributes to the effectiveness of these phenomenal price psychological effects.So much for theory. But what does the implementation of price psychology look like in practice?


3. Why should I omit the currency symbols next to your prices?

Price psychology studies show that prices are perceived to be lower when displayed without a currency symbol on your menus or beverage menus. This makes the guests more willing to spend money. Even a written out "DOLLAR" is better than the sign, but still lags behind the effect of a naked number.



By the way: Of course it is important to inform the guest in which currency he should pay. But it is completely sufficient to note this in the footer of your menu.


4. Break down the price

Fish in gram or deca is especially common when it is a freshly caught delicacy. But it would also be conceivable, for example, to advertise steak by weight. In self-service gastronomy, salads and side dishes according to the decagram are not uncommon. The lower, reduced price on the menu, even if it is for a smaller unit, enhances the impression of the product.But beware: don't overdo it here! If the rice or tiramisu is calculated in grams, the price psychological strategy becomes too obvious on your menu - and could annoy some guests.


5. Make credit card logos clearly visible on your menu

Accept credit cards! They may reduce your profit margin, but they also help you earn more revenue - if you use them wisely. Tell them BIG AND STRONGLY that you accept credit cards. Do not only display the logos on the menu or drinks menu, but also glue stickers of them on your front door or show them everywhere in the visible area of your guest.

The results of studies on sales psychology show not only that money is easier to spend if you don't have to physically part with it, but can simply pay by credit card, but also that simply displaying credit card logos increases the guest's willingness to spend.


6. Why most expensive first?

Your guests are used to finding the cheaper things above. This is usually the case on menus or wine lists, but also in price lists in stores. This is fundamentally wrong as far as turnover is concerned, says price psychology. So turn the tables on them. Your guests are used to finding the cheaper things above. This is usually the case on menus or wine lists, but also in price lists in stores. This is fundamentally wrong as far as turnover is concerned, says price psychology. So turn the tables on them. Your guest buys "from above", they say, and studies prove that this is true. Because many don't want to work their way down to the bottom, or have the time or attention span to do so.This means that the average turnover increases significantly when the menu or wine list starts with the most expensive products.Alternatively, it would also be worth considering putting the products with the highest margins at the top, because that has a positive effect on profits - and it's not so obvious.


7. Write "Small Prices"

If you use words like low or reduced in your menu, then you create the illusion that everything is low or reduced. Also the prices.But it's not a matter of describing the price itself as low or reduced, especially on menus or wine lists. Rather, this trick of price psychology works through priming. This is also the case when it comes to, say, the fat content or the calorie number, which is "reduced" or even something completely different. The spatial proximity on your menu of these or similar words to price labeling is sufficient.


8. How to create values with words

The reverse also works: In the upscale gastronomy it is already common practice, the verbose to pompous descriptions of individual dishes on the menu or the flowery descriptions of fine wines on the wine list. It has been recognized that the "juicy fillet of young country pork " is worth much more in the eyes of the guest than just the "pork fillet". And if it is worth more, then also the price in relation to the value does not appear any more so high.The motto according to price psychology is: Describe your dishes in menus, wine lists and beverage menus using suitable, beautiful, emotional, unusual and above all many words to increase their value in the eyes of your guests.


9. Really expensive, but it works!

You can also include higher-priced products on your menu, preferably really expensive ones. This may seem paradoxical at first glance, but it still works.Because even if the eighth of a cup of wine is not ordered often for $ 9.9, it belongs on the drinks menu or wine list (with consideration for the overall concept of the restaurant, of course).In comparison to it the wines around $ 3.9 or $ 4.5 seem substantially cheaper than without this contrast ... and are bought thereby rather. The same applies to meals on the menu.


10.Elevated dishes by triggering social behavior patterns

If other guests have already been satisfied with something, the probability that new guests will also order it increases. We follow the others. Social proof is the name of this psychology effect. This works very well online on various rating platforms, but you can also use it to redesign your menu or wine list.

"Most guests choose ...", "The Top 10 of our dishes", "The most popular dishes of this month" ... in this or a similar way you bring certain dishes and drinks into the limelight. You can also highlight them directly on your menu or drinks menu using colours, frames, stars or boxes, etc. In this way you guide your guests to the products that not only taste good to your guests, but guarantee you the greatest range.