The New Psychology of Menu Design

Originally published on Restaurant Hospitality

By Marvin Doefler

Your digital menu makes a crucial first impression and has the power to draw customers and increase their spending.

Traditionally when you think of menu design, you think of expertly crafted leather-bound menus with bold colors and over-the-top descriptions. Today’s restaurant menus are changing. With the advent of new technologies, more restaurants are adding digital menus to their websites and tabletops.

As more people begin looking at menus online, the old tricks and standards of menu design don’t work anymore. Restaurants are faced with the challenge of making their menus both user friendly and psychologically designed to sell. The internet has changed the menu game, and these are the new rules.

Usability comes first

A digital menu is experienced in a different way than a print menu and needs to be usable. It’s easy to upload a low resolution cell phone picture of your print menu or post a menu using jarring flash animation. Neither approach will increase the usability of your online menu or website. Your menu should encourage customers to stick around instead of clicking off.

When a customer is sitting at a table in your restaurant, it is unlikely they will get up and leave unless something awful happens. However, when they are on your website it doesn’t take much to click away and go somewhere else if your menu loads slowly or isn’t readable. A usable and readable menu will keep your potential customer browsing.

Millennials in particular are pretty impatient in general and they are also web savvy. A flash animation that won’t load on their smartphone or a low resolution picture with unreadable text could be all it takes to lose their business.

Embrace change

One of the nice things about a digital menu is that it is (with some basic web skills) relatively easy to change. Unlike paper menus that need to be re-designed, printed, and covered for every update, digital menus allow you to add a fresh new dish with just a few clicks.

Smart restaurant managers take full advantage of making menu changes quickly and easily. For example, you can highlight the items you think will sell well on a particular day, such as cold drinks and light meals in nice weather or soups and hot beverages on a chilly day.

You can also change out entire sections based on a holiday or season. Feature your famous green salad on St. Patrick’s Day then switch it out for your special egg dishes at Easter in a matter of minutes

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About VSheree

V. Sheree Williams is the publisher of Cuisine Noir Magazine, the country's first digital and print culinary magazine that connects the African diaspora through food, drink and travel. For more, in-depth stories, visit
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