Menu Marketing Essentials

A menu is more than a simple list of food items; it is a marketing piece with powerful potential to boost profits. Expert menu marketing strategy is integral to restaurant success and should be practiced with precision planning and research. The following menu marketing essentials will help you plan the perfect menu:

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Tell customers what to buy

Your customers trust you to prepare excellent meals, so shouldn't they also trust you to recommend the best dishes? Highlight what you want to sell — your most profitable items — and assign them names such as "House Specialty" and "Critics' Choice." While all of your dishes should come across as tantalizing, your big-ticket items should be portrayed as the best of the best.

Write creative copy

Use creative copy in your section names and item descriptions. Instead of "seafood," try "Fresh Catch," or instead of "desserts", how about "Elegant treats"? You want to convey a sense of personality and quality — what makes your restaurant different from the rest? Also, if your menu includes dishes with foreign names, translate for your customers.

Encourage your customers to ask their servers

Do your customers need help deciding, or do they want a recommendation? Your menu should encourage customers to ask their friendly servers for suggestions, and your servers should be trained in affable service that helps sell more without being pushy.

Market to specific segments

Your menu copy and design should stick to a common theme, but you can still highlight special-interest foods to specific segments. Identify sub-niches within your target audience to define what these sections might be: perhaps a steak lover's section, a low-calorie section or a kosher food section can boost business by making it easy for customers to find what they love.

Include coupons

resources imageThis is especially true for take-out and delivery food establishments. If you include money-saving coupons on your take-home menus, your sales will increase. Other restaurants might include a special double-reservation offer — refer a friend and save 50 percent off. You're essentially giving one meal away free, but you'll make more in the long run through repeat business. Your menus should be different from the competitions — in theme, design and content. You want your menu to work as a sales piece, motivating customers to choose you instead the competition. Once you've achieved this, make sure you saturate the market with your menus: leave one with every customer, send them in your direct-mail campaigns, leave them in hotel rooms and more. A great menu is an investment with a high expectation for return on investment. With the proper menu marketing strategy, you can boost sales tremendously.