Gone are the days when a menu was a simple piece of paper listing items and prices. Restaurants see it as the last piece of advertising a guest sees before ordering. So it's only natural that large restaurant chains have brought in psychologists and sociologists and lots of other professions whose titles end in "ologist" to make menus as effective as can be.
Certain little tricks can improve sales up to 10 percent, according to the National Restaurant Association. The adjective "marinated" increases sales while "fried" has the opposite effect. (Try pan-browned instead.) Daily specials should be highlighted in a different font or preferably a different color. Pictures and drawings help. The "power position" on the menu should be on the right page and just above center level. This is the spot for items with "high margin and appeal." Dollar signs are to be avoided.
Some good examples in Kansas City:
1924 Main Menu (PDF)
two-course special is center-right and listed in a larger font. None of
the entrees has dollar signs on the item though there are
dollar signs elsewhere. Spacing is important -- appetizers and entrees
should not be right on top of one another and this menu does a good job
of distinguishing the entrees from other items.
City Tavern Menu Menu (PDF)
very good example of using a menu to sell. There's a large drawing in the power
position promoting oysters. Different fonts are used to highlight particular
menu items in each section. Lots of attraction adjectives. The only thing that could be improved is the fact that the most
expensive entree -- a rack of lamb -- is below center.
Zest Menu (PDF)
items are listed on the right-hand side. Appetizers and
entrees are on separate pages, and the special section on the
upper part of the entree page devoted to signature dishes is cordoned off
by a yellow box. Lots of color and fonts.
Re:Verse Menu (PDF)
Drawings in the background (though not of food), with color instead of space separating sections. The high-margin item -- pizza -- has the power position and the entrees are listed directly in the center of the menu.