Master your menu: six psychologically proven tips to upsell your dishes

Master your menu: six psychologically proven tips to upsell your dishes 

Attracting customers, getting them to sit down to order and speeding up their decision-making process are key aspects for your restaurant turnover. All of that happens in seconds and Nadia Galin from Ippopotamo shares her insights and advice on how to make the most of each of those aspects: “It’s daily business for our restaurant to attract customers and make our service more efficient. We are located on the busiest square of Verona, which is the fourth most touristic city in Italy. You can imagine competition is fierce and having a competitive edge is vital for attracting tourists to our restaurant. Like you, we face the question every day of how to stay ahead of our competitors and I’ll gladly tell you how our menu plays a central role in our success. Also when it comes to home delivery”

Bums on seats and plates on tables 

We believe that a menu is not just a list of what you offer, but a tool for your business and its effect starts right down the street. As soon as someone comes within sight of our restaurant, we try to attract them with photos of our dishes, recognisable product names and competitive prices. But once we get guests to sit down, we also have to meet their expectations. That means tasty food and great service, delivered on time, so we can maximise our conversion during their brief stay in our restaurant. This means that an order should be served within 5 to 10 minutes. If it takes longer than that, make sure you have suggestions for appetisers ready! Apart from insights like these, I also want to share the following six psychologically proven tips that will give you an insight into how you can design a smart menu that will sell your products for you:

1. Place your high-margin products in a box 

In essence, your menu lists your products and prices, so customers can choose their preference. The use of photos can be very beneficial here, particularly with an international crowd like we get at Ippopotamo. You can even help drive sales by putting photos of your high-margin dishes in boxes on the menu or in your online communications. Why? People like to see what they’re getting and by highlighting dishes you are marking them as suggested choices. Customers will be likely to choose the dishes you focus their attention on. All that’s left for you to do then is to make sure these dishes also taste great!

2. Have your basics on the cover of your menu (and sell the luxurious ones) 

There are a number of benefits to placing a basic, simple dish on the cover of your menu and on outside or online advertising. Showcasing these dishes (with a competitive price) establishes the following: 

  • Attention: draw attention by showing customers precisely what you serve.
  • Interest: a low price sets a standard, which convinces guests of a good deal.
  • Desire: it is psychologically proven that most customers will pick a more expensive option (over a cheaper one) because it makes them feel like they are choosing the highest quality level, which is always good.
  • Action: with a good price, decisions are easily made. A little upselling for a personal choice is also easier to do with the right price. So there you go!

3. Always place your high-margin dishes at the top right of your menu 

People are creatures of habit and psychological research shows that your guests tend to move from the top left to the top right of your menu and are most likely to choose a dish at the top right. This means that if you put your high-margin dishes there, you’ll start selling them like hot cakes! Ordering for home delivery, whether it’s done online or from a leaflet, is no different.

4. Show the price without the currency sign

An additional insight from psychological research: ditch the €-sign when you display prices, because your customers feel ‘buyers’ guilt’ when they see them. Remove those, and they’ll spend money more easily. Bonus tip: Guests look at whole numbers, not decimals (this means 14.95 sells better than 15.50).

5. Focus on title instead of price 

You want guests to get excited about your food, not your price, right? Therefore, make your product titles more prominent and super clear, so that they know what to expect. Also, stick to the language of your customers and the terms that are used in tourist guides. If they call a latte macchiato a caffè latte, sell caffè lattes!

6. Secret shopping: know your competition

As a restaurant manager, I cannot go out and do secret shopping, but I can send other people to experience what our competitors are offering, from the service to the menu and the food. This allows us to pick up on trends and innovation or simply get inspired to boost business. You may not have imagined being James Bond as part of your job, but you have to be competitive out there! With today’s online ordering, this is even easier to do as you can just look it up online.

Bonus tip: use your waiting time! 

Got some extra time before food is served? Does the table need some more time to decide? Fill the gaps with sharing plates of finger food. With easy dishes at the ready, you make the most of every moment.

Put your customer first and never stop being curious

These are just six opportunities to make your menu upsell your dishes and boost your business. What’s most important though, is to keep learning, do your research and talk to staff and customers. Much of service happens through home delivery, which means you don’t always have the same range of opportunities available. Yet, I’m certain their basic values stand. Remain curious and keep doing what is best for your guests, because what works one day may have changed the next. Keep that in mind, and you’ll get there!