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Reimagining Your Online Menu

While you may already know that menu engineering is a legit tactic for analyzing and strategically designing a 'Kick Ass' menu that delivers profits, you might have also found the data-collection process a bit daunting. And while creating a data-based menu for your in-person guests might be challenging, using menu engineering to create a scaled-down menu for pick-up and delivery involves a bit more work.

With the traditional method focusing on quantifiable profitability and popularity metrics, menu engineering for restaurant delivery involves going one step further; deciding which of those items work best for your off-premise operations.

But while menu engineering might be a bit time-consuming, you'll soon see that it's time well spent.

Make the Most of Your Menu

Once you've done the work and come up with a strategic scaled-down menu, the next step is to translate all that work into a digitally-optimized menu that captures your customers' attention and boosts sales.

Visitors to your website are likely to order the first items that capture their attention so it’s critical that your menu is designed so the items you most want to sell can be easily found by your guests.

Strategies and tactics to consider:

Golden Triangle

Place the items you want to sell in the center, top right, and top left corners.

Top and bottom

Place your most profitable items at the top of the list and one at the bottom.

Use decoy and bracketing tactics

Decoy: Place high-profit margin items close to the more reasonably priced items. This tactic allows guests to feel like they are getting a better deal on items in the main body of the menu. High-priced “decoys” could be items in your puzzle group. Maybe they will never actually be sold, but because they make the lower-priced items seem even more attractive, they get the job done.

Bracketing: Similar to the decoy tactic, including two portion options for one dish without including the exact size makes certain items appear to be great deals. Include a larger size with a higher price and a smaller, lower price size right below it. Guests won’t know exactly how much smaller the small portion is, but it will appear to be the better value just because of the low price.

Use pricing tactics

The nesting method: Listing the price directly following the meal description in the same font, font size, and color forces the eye to glide over the price instead of focusing on it.

Pricing tactics to avoid:

  • Prices that end with .99 - While this tactic might work in a retail setting, using the .99 makes food appear cheap and unappetizing.

  • Dollar signs - Dollar signs remind customers that they’re spending money. Unless your restaurant caters to a multi-national audience, the currency symbol is not necessary.

  • Price trails - Dotted lines that connect your menu items to their price are like big giant arrows pointing to the price. They take the focus away from the food and highlight the price.

  • Price columns. Placing prices in columns next to the item forces the guest’s eye to compare prices instead of reading the dish’s description. Guests might be swayed by the lower price and base their decision on cost alone.

If guests see an eye-catching dessert on the main menu page, they might decide to skip an appetizer to save room for dessert. Surprise your guests with a separate dessert menu that pops up in the check-out process to entice upselling.

Use photos with care

Excessive photos are associated with low-end products, which is why most high-end restaurants avoid using photos altogether.

But, because this is an online menu, using one or two strategically placed photos is not only beneficial, it's essential. In fact, studies have shown that menus with mouthwatering images of menu items can increase sales by as much as 30%. If you want to share more great photos, save them for your social media posts.

Use words carefully

When creating menu item descriptions, it’s essential to use words efficiently and strategically. Choose words that are appealing, easily understood, and detailed.

Minimize your menu

A carefully designed scaled-down online menu is one of your restaurant’s most valuable marketing tools. By strategically advertising your menu’s best offerings online and promoting them on social media, you will inevitably increase your restaurant's profits.

Avoid crowded layouts and choose fonts and font sizes that are easy to read. Keep in mind that a majority of your site’s visitors will be viewing your menu on their phones, so avoid fancy fonts, caps, and tiny disclaimer-sized text. Use clear headings on each section and make the dish title easily visible.

Using a Minimum Viable Menu with scaled-down offerings will make your customers feel less pressure and more at ease. Psychologists suggest that too many options create a feeling of stress. Limit your offerings to no more than 7 per section, keeping in mind they can be adjusted as often as you like. Using tactics like *menu engineering, a Minimum Viable Menu is a carefully thought-out, scaled-down menu that only contains items that are popular and profitable at the same time.

Other important considerations are deliverability and availability. Not all profitable, popular items are viable for delivery, and because of the supply chain shortage, not every item is guaranteed to be available. To save yourself and your staff headaches, pare down your menu to only those items that meet these important criteria:

  • Profitable

  • Popular

  • Available

  • Deliverable

The goal of a scaled-down menu (MVM) is to create a menu that eliminates items that do not meet these four criteria and entices customers to order. Shifting to a leaner and smaller menu of options not only increases customer satisfaction by consistently offering your proven winners and decreasing the dreaded “out of stock” response, but the trimmed-down menu allows restaurants to operate more efficiently and ultimately, more profitably.

The fact is, no matter how much your in-house diners rave about an item, that doesn’t mean that item will translate well to your digital menu. Some of your highest-rated dine-in items simply don’t travel well. Others require expensive ingredients that spoil quickly if they go unordered, or contain ingredients currently difficult to source because of shortages.

Carefully select a color scheme

Human beings respond emotionally and subconsciously to color, so choose your color scheme wisely. Bright colors like red, yellow, and orange trigger visitors’ appetites.

To reinforce continuity between your brand and your online menu, your menu’s color scheme should match that of your restaurant’s theme.

  • Green and tan: natural, organic, farm-fresh

  • Yellow: healthy, lunch fare

  • Blue: seafood, lighter fare

  • Red: Italian, pizza, casual

  • Maroon, black and white: high-end, gourmet cuisine

Take away

Creating an awesome menu for your off-premise operation is one of the most important steps you'll ever take on your journey towards success. Using menu engineering, creating a scaled-down menu, and designing the best visual digital representation of your restaurant's offerings possible, you'll attract customers, increase sales, and boost your bottom line!

Related Resources

Reimagining Your Online Menu - How to Design the perfect online menu!

Free Downloadable Menu Engineering Worksheet

Delivery Menu Engineering Worksheet
Download • 438KB

By Eileen Strauss


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