The Psychology of Menu Design

How good menu design can persuade your customers to buy more

As a consumer, whether we like it or not, psychology has been used to determine the way we create and angle marketing and as we focus more on the customer, understanding the psychology of these people is a key part of business success. As an operator, there are many ways we can use this to our advantage to maximise sales opportunities and profit margins and increase customer satisfaction as well as return visitation. 

The power of selling through design creates an opportunity to influence your customers through the subconscious cues we look for when making purchasing decisions. 

We’ve looked at the top considerations you should incorporate when you’re designing your menu and why they are important.  

La Farfelle's Menu by One & Other  (image via The Design Blog)

La Farfelle's Menu by One & Other (image via The Design Blog)



Certain colours can affect what we order. Green implies foods are fresh and healthy. Orange stimulates the appetite and yellow is a happy colour often used to attract attention. Red encourages action and can be used to persuade higher price point purchases. 


Negative Space

Overcrowded menus full of text can overwhelm the customer and the eye will naturally gravitate to the open or negative spaces on the menu. Negative space used effectively and to the designer’s advantage can help guide customers to items on the menu with higher profit margins. Set key menu items in their own space, away from the crowd. This is also why promotional posters, with one item and minimal text and imagery work so well. It reduces choice and makes decision making simple.


Limit Choices

Operators often make the mistake of developing large menus with a “something for everyone” approach. This not only puts a strain on your kitchen team and has the potential to increase your wastage, it also makes the customers decision making process much harder and runs the risk of you losing the customer all together.

Keep it simple for your team and your customers - limit your menu to 7 – 14 options and rotate the selection seasonally or more regularly pending demand. The idea is to create a balance of choice, without overwhelming the customer. 


Tell a Story

How you describe your products, the adjectives and ingredients you include are an important way to catch the customer’s attention and begin the culinary journey. We eat with our eyes, or so the saying goes, this starts with what we read and what the conjures up for us and how it tempts us. 

Overly wordy descriptions full of hard to articulate words and unfamiliar ingredients can be a deterrent for customers. Though word count is important – varying the length of the description on each product, reserving longer descriptions for high profit margin items, makes them stand out and appeal as “special” or more desirable. 


The Price is Right

$11 or $10.95, there is a difference and it is beyond 5cents. $10.95 gives the consumer the impression that are getting more value for money. Depending on your positioning and target demographic, pricing your menu including cents can make a lot of sense – driving sales and increasing upsell opportunities. 

Many fine dining restaurants will use round numbers, adding to the experience of exclusivity and sophistication. 


Product Placement

Where you position products on the menu matters for what people will choose. Typically, the eyes move from top centre, to top right then to the top left. Positioning high profit margin products in these locations increases their order rate and maximises sales opportunities through indirect sales techniques. 

The question of what justification to use when formatting your menu is simple. Centred Justification is your best option. This leaves prices scattered, gently encouraging the customer to order what they want, rather than being driven by price. 

Betty's Burger Menu by Folke Army  (image via The Loop)

Betty's Burger Menu by Folke Army (image via The Loop)

If you would like some advice on how to better your menu, get in touch with one of our expert food consultants to have a chat about where Future Food can help you. 


Credits - Cover image via TVO