Tag Archives: menu boards

Menu Marketing: Driving Sales, Add-ons and the Customer Experience

How to Write an Effective Menu

Whether you run a fine dining room, local sports bar or the concession stand at the ballpark, you need a little menu marketing to maximize sales. Your physical menu tells the story of your business and sets the expectations for level of service, food quality and even how the customer will tip. What does your menu say about you? Even if you have been open and serving for years, marketing consultants agree that a revamped menu with great food descriptions can increase your revenue over 10%. We’ve compiled some simple tips to help you make the most of your menu.

You menu design and copy say a lot about your establishment.

You menu design and copy say a lot about your establishment. (J. Kapusnak, foodiesfeed.com)

The Psychology of the Meal

For most establishments, you are trying to convince your customer to part with as much of their money as possible when dining with you. Here is where the psychology comes into play. To increase your per capita spending, experts suggest:

  • Do you need dollar signs? You see it at upscale dining restaurants all the time. But the Culinary Institute of America determined that prices without a “$” or the word “dollars” saw sales increase over 8%. It’s not spent money if there are no dollars!
  • When ala carte is important, separate the categories. You will encourage customers to eat more when appetizers, soups and salads each have their own section. Similarly, use a separate dessert menu.  If a customer eyes a delicious ending on the main menu, they may decide to not add a delicious appetizer at the beginning.
  • Put your most profitable items where the eyes naturally wander. Place those items in the first two positions at the top of a section, or as the last item. Most customers ignore the middle of the menu no matter what it contains.
  • Design is king. Draw attention to your specialty items by boxing them in, but don’t confuse your customer with too many or misleading pictures of your menu items. Make sure to leave ample amounts of ‘white space’ to keep your customer from becoming overloaded with information. Realize that customers usually look first at the center section of a three section menu or the right side of a two section menu. Make sure there is something that catches their eyes in those positions.
  • ‘Combo Meals’ can work in any environment. While you may not want to call the Filet Mignon a “#5 Value Meal,” people do like simple decisions to be made for them. Advertise your signature dish with a complementary signature side and maybe even a dessert and watch the customers gravitate to it. It’s not about the bundle savings (usually there is not any), it’s about making the ordering decision easy.
  • Create a popular dish by pairing it with a symbol. That ‘Chef’s Choice’ label wasn’t added because the chef loves his Chicken Parmesan – he loves the profit margin on it. Customers are drawn to labels because of a perceived prestige and will usually pay a premium to enjoy it.
  • Finally, use your words to build excitement in your food. But, that is so important that it deserves its own section.

Choose Great Words to Your Describe Food

What does your menu say about your place?

What does your menu say about your place?

You know that how you describe your menu items effects your customer’s buying decision. The right descriptive words can make and ordinary meal more extraordinary. As a simple example; how much more appealing does a Big Mac sound than a ‘double cheeseburger with special sauce’? Try adding some adjectives to uniquely describe your signature dishes or maybe incorporate some local flair or place names to your signature dishes. Powerful adjectives and descriptions could include: Aromatic, Caramelized, Fire-grilled or Grilled Whole.

Powerful adjectives can also make your signature dishes seem like exclusive experiences that cannot be found in any other restaurant. Be creative and memorable when turning your everyday appetizer into a special event. Surveys have also shown that customers are willing to pay a premium price for something they perceive as exclusive or ‘better here than anywhere else.” Plus, this makes it difficult to price compare your dish to a competitor’s similar one. You can raise your price point (and profits) with a few simple words.

Of course, if your restaurant has a theme – be sure to incorporate those quirks into both the names of your dishes and the descriptions. Don’t go overboard though. Be sure your dish names and descriptions accurately and concisely describe the food.  Nobody really wants to have to ask “what’s in the chef’s house dressing?”

Sell your Daily Specials with a write-in board.

Sell your Daily Specials with a write-in board from Central.

Finally, menu marketing isn’t just limited to for-profit establishments. On the School Nutrition Association’s website, they suggest renaming menu items to make them more appealing and thematic. One suggestion was to rename the lunchroom staple fruit salad ad “Fastball Fruit Salad” to promote a healthy and active lifestyle.

Tools of the Trade

Once you decide what to write about your food, you’ll need an equally appropriate way to display your menu. Turn to Central Restaurant and our large selection of menu covers, laminators and card displays and holders. Too casual for menus? Our Product Consultants can help you find the right menu or marker board to help you get your message across.  Give us a call at 800-215-9293 or start a live online chat with one of our educated consultants right now.

10 Back to School Products and Ideas for School Cafeterias

The beginning of the school year is the best time to go over standards and policies.  It’s also the time to make sure all the right tools are available to make every day a successful one.

Here are 10 products and ideas from Central to help get your cafeteria started right for the upcoming school year.

1. Food safety is critical.  All cafeteria employees should go over proper food and hand washing techniques at the beginning of the year, followed by periodic refresher meetings and posted signage.  Also, when wearing gloves, upon stepping away from a workstation, or moving on to another task (even if just for a second), dispose of the gloves immediately and put on a new pair when returning.

2. There are trays designed for a quick turnaround.  Melamine compartment trays dry the quickest and are an excellent choice for schools with a quick turnaround. Click on any of the following for more information: #17K-046, #17K-047, #17K-051 and #17K-052.

3. Planning menus in advance, and making them easy to access, helps everyone.  Can students and parents easily access your menus?  If they are only sent home with students, don’t forget about the ones who lose things easily or forget to take things home. Consider posting menus online and also having menu boards in the cafeteria. This way, everyone stays informed.

4. Cold food/salad bars are a great way to make fruits and vegetables available for children and promote healthy eating habits.  These types of food bars are really making their way into schools.  Even one of Michelle Obama’s initiatives of “Let’s Move!” includes the campaign for “Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools.”  The Carlisle Six-Star food bar or Cambro Versa Bars are great choices that come in a youth height for easy access.

5. Create a rewards program to help teach students healthy eating habits.  Make sure the program doesn’t reward with more food—especially junk food.  Work with other members of the school to create incentives to eat healthier such as free time or fun activities.

6. Learning doesn’t have to stop during lunch time.  On top of promoting healthy eating habits, use meal times to inform students of your school’s green initiatives and get them involved. This can set them up to be environmentally conscious in their every day life.

7. Food allergies are very serious.  All workers should be prepared in the event of an emergency, even if you don’t have any students to your knowledge with allergies.  A student’s life can depend on it. In last week’s resources blog, we found excellent information about food allergies from the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, including this Food Action Plan.

8. When shopping, there are warranties exclusive to schools.  Keep your eye out for these. Some brands that have these special warranties are Garland, Vulcan, APW Wyott, Cres Cor, Duke and Univex. (At Central, we mention ours in our school catalogs. Feel free to contact a Product Consultant for help).

9. Keep cereal fresh.  For breakfast programs, cereal dispensers keep food fresh, save space and control portion sizes.

10. Dispose of the disposables. For flatware, both the Windsor and Dominion medium weights are great options for schools as well as our Central Exclusive Tumblers. Also, while you may not always think of ice as a disposable, have you ever considered reusable ice? It saves money and you will never have to deal with the mess regular ice can bring. Check out mat #647-001 or singles #647-002.  And if you’re in the market for a new dishwasher, the Jackson CREW44 conveyor dishwasher is one of the top picks for schools.

Don’t forget to check out last week’s resources blog to keep informed going into the school year. Also, check out our February blog “Top 10 Ways Central Can Help Your Cafeteria Go Green” if you’re looking to make your school cafeteria more eco-friendly.  Don’t forget to share your favorite products and ideas below.

Thanks to Central’s Category Managers Laura Bedillion and Elizabeth Price for providing great product suggestions.

Vending Machines and Menus Will Be Getting a Makeover

The health care reform legislation was signed into law on March 23, 2010 by President Obama. Section 4205 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 will change the way menu boards, vending machines and menus look.

Part of this act requires food service establishments with 20 or more locations to list calorie content for standard menu items. Other nutritional information will need to be available upon request.

Vending machine operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines will also need to disclose calorie content for certain items.

The FDA wants to hear from you. The deadline for proposed regulations is March 23, 2011 and the FDA wants to know how you think the labeling requirements should be implemented.

To share your opinion visit the FDA website and follow the instructions. It’s simple and in just a few steps your opinion will be heard.