Good words are worth much, and cost little.
~ George Herbert
Based on a study by Cornell University (published in the Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly), menu items with good descriptions outsell others by 27%. Descriptions that use expressive language and paint a vivid picture in the minds of consumers have a powerful effect on purchase decisions.
- Sales of Menu Items with Good Descriptions!
- Basic Menu Item Descriptions
Descriptions that use vivid storytelling words to describe ingredient pairings, preparation methods, and presentation expectations outsell other items on the menu by nearly 30%
The study looked at how descriptive menu labels (versus simple and basic descriptions) impacted sales, customer’s perception of taste of food, attitudes towards value of the purchase, and their overall attitudes toward the restaurant.
Here are the results:
Sales – Descriptive menu item sales increased by 27%!
Food Quality – Descriptive menu items saw the attitude towards menu item’s quality increase 11.29%
Restaurant Quality – Descriptive items saw the attitudes towards the restaurant’s overall quality increase 20.83%
Willingness to pay more – Descriptive menus impacted customer’s willingness to pay more by 7.14% (meaning customers were willing to pay 7.14% more for the same dish… a direct correlation to value)
In other words….
Descriptive menu items can justify a price increase of 7%!
So, if your restaurant is doing $1M, that’s an additional $71,400 annually!
The caveat, it is important to understand not every menu item needs to be a work of poetic literature. Overuse of descriptive language may backfire. Use strategically. Apply to items that make most sense (high profitability, ingredients with a short shelf life, etc.).
In another study by Michael McCall & Ann Lynn, published by the title The Effects of Restaurant Menu Item Descriptions on Perceptions of Quality, Price, and Purchase Intention, which collected and analyzed controlled menu data from 160 restaurant goers, looking at how individuals may respond to menu items that were either described simply, or described more complexly – resulted in similar results.
Their findings concluded that “items described in more complex terms increased perceptions of quality, likelihood of purchase, and expected price. More complex terminology increased perceptions of quality, likely choice, and pricing expectations.”
- Complex Terminology – Quality
- Complex Terminology – Likely Choice
- Complex Terminology – Price Expectations
- Simple Terminology – Quality
- Simple Terminology – Likely Choice
- Simple Terminology – Price Expectations
Speech has power. Words do not fade. What starts out as a sound, ends in a deed. ~ Abraham Joshua Herschel
- Combination of Ingredients
- Avoidance of Food
Additionally, the study also concluded that not only was “the combination of ingredients” the most influential factors on a customer buying decision, but it was 100% probable that a customer would choose “the combination of ingredients” as the primary factor when deciding!
A well-written entree creates images – painting a clear picture of what it may look like, how it may taste, and the overall expected experience.
Quick and Easy | Do-it-today Takeaways
- Put a little more effort and get creative with titles and item descriptions
- Include process language; hand-breaded, flame-seared, aged to perfection
- Include storytelling; locally sourced (include name), farm-to-table, in-season, freshly picked, etc.
- Without sounding snobby or pretentious, if the process uses a technique deeply-rooted in the culinary arts (and it sounds French!), using it. “Finished with a fresh herb chiffonade”, instead of “herb garnish”.
- If simplicity is part of your brand, that’s fine. Approach menu engineering with a headline approach; stronger menu titles, smaller descriptions. At a quick glance it will give a visual sense of a simple, uncluttered look. And will give the customer a chance to quickly scan menu headlines, looking for descriptor keywords.
- Btw, please don’t BS your menu or your customer. If you honestly serve great food, prepared with thought and care, using the freshest ingredients – then go for it! Get creative with descriptions. You may find it’ll be the simplest way to increase pricing by 7%.
Here’s to great food and even better company!
~ Andre Ivanchuk
- Kimberley Peters, Pr. Hervé Remaud, Factors influencing consumer menu-item selection in a restaurant context, Food Quality and Preference, Volume 82, 2020, 103887, ISSN 0950-3293, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2020.103887
- Michael McCall & Ann Lynn (2008) The Effects of Restaurant Menu Item Descriptions on Perceptions of Quality, Price, and Purchase Intention, Journal of Foodservice Business Research, 11:4, 439-445, DOI: 10.1080/15378020802519850
- Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, Descriptive Menu Labels’ Effect on Sales
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- Photo by cottonbro from Pexels
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- Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV from Pexels
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