Archive for August 23rd, 2007|Daily archive page

The Science of Menus or How Red Lobster Became Classy

menu

Think they just toss some items on a menu under their appropriate categories? Think again.

There’s an actual science behind where each item is placed on a menu in order to get you to spend the most money.

Here’s some of their secrets. You can check out the entire article on Forbes Traveler.

One of the reasons the tabs are going up is because of something you probably don’t realize. Then again, you’re not supposed to realize it: the secret science of menu psychology. Smart chefs (or their menu consultants) know that when most of you open a menu, your eyes go right to the top of the page on the right side. And, armed with that knowledge, chefs place the menu item that will give them the most profit at the top of the page. Hence, it soon becomes their biggest seller. Then, your eyes normally drift to the center of the page. That’s where many chefs place their absolutely most expensive item. They do that not because they expect you to buy that item, but because the psychology of menus indicates you’ll probably then look at the items immediately above and below the high ticket item and order one of those. Again, those two items rank second and third for generating profits.

There’s also a psychology to how menu items are priced.

• Not surprisingly, there is a migration toward higher price points. People buy brands, and food is an easy indulgence. That’s why we buy $4 Starbucks over fifty cent convenience store coffee.

• Price rounding psychology only works with lower-priced items: Someone will buy a $1.99 taco, but not one sold at $2. On higher priced items at upscale restaurants, it’s all called hip, minimalist pricing, and items are rounded up. That big steak in the fine dining restaurant isn’t $38.95, it’s $39.

• What’s the price barrier? $20 is the tipping point for casual dining restaurants. You won’t see many items at PF Changs or Cheesecake Factory above $19.99.

• Restaurants have also learned that pictures sell food, but pictures also pull down the perception of overall quality. Denny’s and IHop use pictures, but Red Lobster is becoming more upscale and stopped using photos last year. Their price points – and their profits – went up.

Not only has Red Lobster stopped using pictures, but they’re totally reinventing their restaurants.

A few weeks ago, the seafood chain, owned by Orlando-based Darden Restaurants, launched a marketing campaign designed to highlight an expanded fresh fish menu and other new culinary creations.

Sensing that some consumers associate Red Lobster with frozen seafood and dining rooms cluttered with fishing memorabilia, executives have been tweaking its look and feel.

Several months ago, Red Lobster introduced a daily rotating menu of fresh fish selections.

The chain also tested a sleeker restaurant design — meant to evoke the Maine coast — that it says will be used as the model for new restaurants. (from the Orlando Sentinel)

And on a related note, Red Lobster actually won an award for the Best Menu Revamp in 1999, but after reading the above you can probably tell that didn’t work out so well.

Lets just hope they keep that delicious cheesey wine biscuits on the tables. In case you haven’t tried them, or if you just want to make it at home, here’s the recipe.

Photo from Flickr.

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