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Better menu design tactics

We know for a fact that guests don't really read menus. They just scan them. They glance at them. Their eyes float across the pages looking for something that catches their attention.

There are dozens of menu design tactics you can use to draw your guests' attention to your restaurant's high profit items. But perhaps the most simple and effective is the use of that wonderful four-sided and familiar shape, the square. Yep, the square. Not to say that a square can't be dressed up or dressed down or even called a box. It's very versatile, you know. Let's look at three menu techniques using a simple square: Boxing, Shading and Showcasing.

Boxing is simply drawing a box around a high profit menu item in a given category. Just by setting it apart visually, you can increase sales of that item by 15%. All you've done is break up the page, given the eye something to notice.

Shading is the dressed up version of boxing. It calls for a bit of flair, a bit of color, a bit of fun. Just add a shadow to the box, offset slightly to the bottom and the right. Again, this menu engineering technique calls attention to whichever item you choose to highlight. So be sure it is a profitable item. 

Showcasing is the most daring version of the square. It uses a unique border, pattern, or special graphic treatment to let you know that something special is happening. Best of all, you can use showcasing to highlight an entire menu category or a merchandising strategy instead of just one item. In our example, "Fresh Fish" is being showcased as an alternative dining choice on a steakhouse menu.

One thing to keep in mind...you can have too much of a good thing. Use these menu engineering techniques with restraint. Limit yourself to two boxed items per page on your menu to avoid visual "clutter" or overcrowding.

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