9 Ways to Upsell with Your Menu

Upsell with Your Menu

Sep. 08, 2017 | 4

Restaurant menus are more than itemized lists of dishes and drinks—they are capable of upselling certain dishes or persuading guests to try something new. If done well, your menu will not only encourage guests to order more items and take chances on your pricier choices, it will upsell itself in a discreet manner.

Below we reveal nine ways to use your menu as an effective and discreet sales tool.

Use Descriptive Adjectives

There are many changes you can make to your menu, but this one is the most important: Use descriptive adjectives. A list of ingredients informs customers of what’s inside the dish, but a list doesn’t help them to know what to expect. Guests are wondering:

  • How is the dish prepared?
  • How does it look?
  • How much of a certain ingredient is present in a dish?

Adjectives answer these questions with subtlety. They spark the diner’s imagination so he or she can envision the dish. When the description appeals to their cravings, they are more likely to order it. See the different below.

Boring menu description: A ham and cheese omelet.

Sales-effective menu description: A fluffy, three-egg omelet with salty ham and sharp cheddar cheese.

You might think it’s too salesy at first, but if you look at these descriptions with an objective eye, which description leaves you with zero questions and total desire? Our guess is the second.

Give Detailed Descriptions

Detailed descriptions are useful to add value to higher-priced food items. For instance, if there are two burritos on the menu with a $13 price difference, customers are going to want to know why. The menu description must explain why the more expensive burrito is worth the extra dollars.

Description for the $7 burrito: A traditional pulled-pork burrito served with black beans and rice, sour cream, and fresh salsa.

Description for the $20 burrito: Our house-specialty burrito is served with pulled pork, smoked in a special blend of spices, with black beans and rice on the side, and topped with a rich, homemade molé sauce.

Detailed descriptions on the menu add value to all items, but especially, higher-ticket dishes. It should also go without saying that all food descriptions should be accurate. The descriptions should not falsely advertise your dishes. Instead, they provide diners with a clear mental picture of what they will receive. The trick is to make the truth irresistible. The more exciting you make the truth, the more diners will want to order, and return for more.

Leave Out Dollar Signs

This is a subtle trick to make guests feel more comfortable with your menu prices: Remove the dollar symbol. The dollar sign reminds customers that they have to pay at the end of the meal, whereas a single-standing number (sans dollar symbol) is less dominating. Remove the dollar signs and you remove a layer of hesitation.

Induce Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a powerful tool of persuasion; reference a family name to evoke feelings of nostalgia and increase order numbers. 

Nostalgic food names work best with comfort dishes. If you own an Italian restaurant, Tiramisu di Nonna would be one way of adding a hint of nostalgia to your menu. Other examples are Grandma Joan’s Blueberry Pie and Uncle David’s Chicken Salad Sandwich.

A well-named, nostalgic menu item should evoke happy memories of childhood or give one a feeling of security and comfort. That’s why family names aren’t the only way of inducing nostalgia, you can also use descriptions that recall cozy, pleasant moments, like Sit-by-the-Fire Hot Chocolate or Summer Camp S’Mores.

Create Product Associations

When appropriate, highlight visible business partners in your menu. A clear example of product Association on a menu would be the TGI Friday’s Jack Daniel’s barbecue sauce. Fans of Jack Daniel’s or bourbon are drawn to the name and are therefore more likely to order that certain TGI Friday’s menu item.

You can do the same at your restaurant. Check out the list of ingredients used in your menu and pull out products with strong reputations and big followings. If one ingredient doesn’t stand out, you can start sourcing quality products to associate with. This is a great way to upsell products with high-profit margins.

Add Anchor Items

Anchor items are an eye-catching design element. In a big font or different color, feature an elaborate, high-priced dish. This is called the anchor item. The reader’s eyes will go directly to this item, but most likely, guests will be turned off by the price. Offer a similar high-end product at a lower price for guests to compare. Diners are more likely to order the more affordable option than the anchor dish.

Add Menu Items with High-Profit Margins Next to the Anchor Item

Since the anchor item has called their attention, keep your guests on this section. This is would be a good place to add items with the highest profit margins. That way, if customers don’t choose your big-ticket dishes, guests select items that will be good for sales.

Highlight Dishes You Want to Sell

Highlight crowd favorites, high-margin and big-ticket items in one short list in your menu. Call it the Chef’s Specials or something with similar distinction to attract attention. By giving it importance, your guests will feel more comfortable ordering something pricier or unusual.

The Top-Right to Bottom-Left Menu Layout Rule

The human eye scans information in a pattern, starting at the top-right of a page, followed by scanning the bottom-left. Because of this natural movement of the eyes, you have two sections on your menu to take advantage of. Organize your specials and entrees according to the top-right to bottom-left rule.

With these tips and tricks, turn your restaurant or bar menu into a sales tool that upsells what you offer.

Sep. 08, 2017 | BY Emma Alois

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