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10 Restaurant Menu Design Hacks to Get People to Order More

Marketing and human psychology are closely intertwined.

Despite the vast differences from person to person, we all share common psychological traits that make us somewhat predictable creatures of habit. Successful marketers have known and taken advantage of these psychological triggers since the early days of the Madison Avenue marketing agencies.   The design of restaurant menus can benefit greatly from applying a few simple design hacks that are based on proven psychological principles. If you own a restaurant, coffee shop, or any other food service business, try incorporating a few of these design elements into your menus and watch how fast the food will fly off your shelves!

Menu Design Raleigh109 Seconds

A Gallup poll a few years ago found that the average restaurant patron spends around 109 seconds reading a menu. While a hair under two minutes may seem like a long time to capture a restaurant patron’s attention, it’s really not. The same Gallup poll found that people tend to scan the menu quickly instead of reading them front-to-back, like a book. You’ve got under two minutes to not only make an impression but persuade your diners to purchase high-ticket meals that will increase your top-line revenue. One of the biggest things you can do to capture people’s attention in under two minutes is to make the menu design easy to visually scan. Easy to find titles, clear headings, and the emphasis of “eye magnets” (see tip #2 for more on eye magnets) will all help persuade the patron to buy what you want them to buy.

Eye Magnets

Have you ever read a newspaper or magazine and noticed how your eyes are instantly drawn to a bit of information or quote that’s highlighted in a box? Reporters call those “call-out quotes.”  They’re designed to capture the attention of the reader while they’re reading. They work exceptionally well on those who tend to skim instead of reading. Eye magnets for restaurants work in a similar mannerism. Design your menu so your most profitable food items are prominently displayed towards the top. You can emphasize the eye magnet by using a shaded box, colors, or a distinct border. You should approach an eye magnet strategically – if you use too many eye magnets on one page it will lessen the overall impact. The general rule of thumb is one category per section. If you have a really expensive food item, you can lessen the price impact by stating that it can feed up to two people. Be sure to put a complimentary dish somewhere nearby as an upsell.


Human beings tend to react very emotionally to different colors. Many scientific studies have been performed on how color affects human emotions and behavior. It’s thought that the colors blue and red tend to trigger appetite responses in the human brain. The nature of your restaurant should also be taken into consideration. For example, if you sell seafood, the color blue should be used prominently because it will remind diners of the ocean and salt air.  Blue with subtle red accents for the eye magnet can work even better. Colors act as simple psychological triggers that should be used sparingly and intelligently.


The wording of your menu should also be taken into consideration. Avoid using generic terms such as sandwich, steak, or omelets. Try using descriptive language. Take a minute to contemplate the following two steak descriptions:  
Steak $10.99 - Our house specialty. We serve your 8-oz. steak with a plate of French fries.
Montana Cowboy Ribeye $19.99 -  A 16-ounce full-flavored USDA Prime cut, that’s perfectly marbled and generously flavored. This juicy, sizzling steak is so tender you could cut it with a butter knife. Served with a plate of our gourmet-cut Idaho potato French fries.
The second description sounds a lot more appetizing than the first – despite being nearly double the price. Use copywriting to your advantage by using sensory descriptors that evoke vivid mental images such as:
  • Tender
  • Succulent
  • Sizzling
  • Gourmet
Nostalgic words can also increase sales:
  • Homestyle
  • Grandma’s
  • Traditional


You should focus more on your food offerings than what they cost. Leave the “dollar menu” items to McDonald's as they usually tend to do a disservice to the overall average order value. Try decreasing the size of the font you use for pricing on your menu design. Removing the dollar sign altogether will also help remove the focus on price. If your items cost more than an even dollar amount (eg: $19.55), try experimenting with using odd numbers. “19.95” sounds a lot better than “20”


This one goes without saying: make sure your pictures look delicious. The picture of your rare steak should literally look like it just said “Moooo” 30 minutes ago. High-quality, professional pictures can cost a lot of money, but the investment will pay you back ten-fold because a picture is worth a thousand words.

Menu Design and Printing in Raleigh

Is your restaurant struggling to increase the dollar amount of the average order? Are your current menus old, crusty, and could use a good redesign? At AlphaGraphics, we specialize in restaurant menu design and printing. We’ve helped countless restaurants throughout the Raleigh area improve their menu designs which in turn can help increase sales. To learn more about how AlphaGraphics of Downtown Raleigh can produce and design your next menu project, you may email us or request a quote or call us at (919) 832-2828.

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