The lifestyle adjustments that were prompted by the virus will create changes to habits and restaurant customer behaviour that are likely to outlast the short-term impact of COVID-19.
This is happening against the backdrop of the ‘real to virtual’ shift across all facets of our lives. Swapping cubicles with couches, ‘face time’ with Facetime, and dining-in with takeaway.
“The pandemic is going to shift the whole dynamic of the industry…In the post-Coronavirus economy, takeout could be a lot bigger than it was.” – Donald Burns, The Restaurant Coach.
Five quick and easy wins for making the most out of your online menu
- 1. Menu matrix: dodge your dodgy dishes
- 2. Lucky no. seven: how many dishes to offer
- 3. Dish descriptions: more words = less expensive
- 4. Decoy effect: ‘reduce’ the price of your dish but earn the same amount
- 5. Colour confusion – don’t be so blue
#1 Menu matrix: dodge your dodgy dishes
Menu matrix helps you find the sweet spot between dishes that both you and your customers love by comparing popularity and profitability.
- popularity: dishes that customers keep ordering — your customers love them
- profitability: dishes that give you the greatest returns — YOU love them
Plotting your dishes on a menu matrix gives you insight and perspective on your dishes.
- Plowhorses: high popularity, low profitability
- Dogs: low popularity, low profitability
- Stars: high popularity, high profitability
- Puzzles: low popularity, high profitability
Most dine-in menus will have a combination of all four categories. But takeaway menus should be dominated by dishes in the Star category.
And while you’re at it, try to do some digging on your Puzzles. Why aren’t they popular? Can they be improved and adapted for takeaway?
#2 Lucky no. seven: how many dishes to offer
“As we complicate menus, what we’re actually doing is tormenting the guest…When the guest leaves (they’re unsatisfied because they feel) they might have made the wrong choice” – Aaron Allen & Associates.
So how do you strike a balance between too many dishes and too few?
Psychologist George A Miller, says the number of objects a working memory can retain is around seven (plus or minus two).
So keep the number of dishes in each of your categories between 5 and 9 (i.e. 7 +/- 2) to give your customers the best experience.
#3 Dish descriptions: more words = less expensive
Descriptions of dishes. Why are they so important?
There has been a growing number of studies that demonstrate a direct link between the length of a description and the popularity of a dish.
In addition to tempting the imagination, descriptions psychologically ‘lower’ the cost of the dish.
The mind plays a balancing act between ‘what am I paying’ and ‘how much am I getting’. Descriptions justify the cost of the dish when compared with the quantity (and quality) of the ingredients.
#4 Decoy effect: ‘reduce’ the price of your dish but earn the same amount
Decoy effect is a tactic to provide customers context by offering perspective. In a menu, it’s the dish that’s priced higher than the others.
The decoy dish guides a customer to the realisation that a dish is reasonably priced by comparing it to a more expensive one.
So if you have a dish that you’d like to see your customers order more of (one of your ‘Stars’ or ‘Puzzles’), featuring a decoy dish in close proximity will make it seem a lot more attractive and reasonably priced.
#5 Colour confusion – don’t be so blue
Different colours impact people’s appetite differently.
Blue is known to be a suppressant because of the lack of blue hue in fruits and vegetables in nature. So, subconsciously, the brain doesn’t associate blue with food.
In fact, blue food almost seems weird and unappealing. Don’t believe it?
So keep this in the back of your mind when you’re designing or customising your takeaway and online menus.
We couldn’t predict or prepare for COVID-19 but we can prepare for a transition out of it. Moving forward, we’ll have data, insights, and emerging trends on our side.
And for now, it’s clear that while the infections from the virus subside, the habits it’s influenced will remain. So while we prepare to re-open our venues, it’s crucial not to lose sight of new revenue sources that will help us grow.
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