August 23, 2023
Devn Ratz

On The Menu: Why Custom Restaurant Menus Sell Much More

Custom restaurant menu design critically enhance customer drive and restaurant profitability. If you look at recent trends in the industry, you’ll see menu design tactics emerging to stimulate sales with psychology and subtle persuasion. 

These changes in menu templates and restaurant menu formatting do more than increase customer orders, both on-premise and off-premise. In part, they’re responsible for communicating values like restaurant sustainability. Others include added supports for staff—such as gratuity fees or benefit charges. 

Overall, a custom restaurant menu promotes profitability and positively influences customer decision-making. It’s one of the restaurateur’s most potent tools for increasing online ordering and streamlining kitchen demands.

Read on to understand the menu psychology and restaurant menu design elements that can increase profits more than 15 percent!

Key Takeaway: Custom restaurant menus enhance the customer experience, increase loyalty program engagement, and increase sales through tailored offers.
Read the free guide to sustainable, custom menus for restaurants based on data insights from Revolution Ordering.

Modern Design Trends for Custom Restaurant Menus

When you run around the US virtually, a review of custom restaurant menu design focuses mostly on off-premise dining. Why? Well, several things changed about menus during the COVID-19 pandemic—as customers were held indoors and increasingly ordering food online.

While there is a trend toward digital menu ordering optimization, based on big data intelligence in restaurant software systems, some are even more specific. For instance, we see more creative and flavorful chicken sandwiches than ever across enterprise restaurants

Pickled, Fermented, and Trending

There’s also a massive surge in searches for pickle-flavored foods. In general, pickled, fermented, and tangy flavors are starting to take stage. 

These profiles are expected to advance toward fried, proteins like chicken, and snacks like nuts or chips. We’ve seen many of these kinds of items released in 2023, most notably the fan-favorite chicken sandwich with pickles and tangy sauce.

Of course, the pandemic also introduced more charges as the need to increase labor solutions and protect on-site staff grows. These fees directly benefit the team by providing gratuity and other compensation funds through customer orders. 

Local Competition through Sustainability 

Finally, the truest pressure on custom restaurant menus remains the competition level in the industry. Attracting new customers is a top priority as the ordering market gains by 11% each year, waiting to topple many hundreds of billions in revenue this year. 

One way that restaurants deal with competition is by getting grounded and digging in locally. They choose and feature local, farm-fresh ingredients to minimize food waste and increase the chances of attracting loyal customers with enticing dishes that do more than taste delicious. Such menus attractively contribute to reduced restaurant emissions and global safety.

Case Studies of Custom Restaurant Menus

To profit well, restaurants must understand menu engineering and management

Menu engineering focuses on profitability and popularity. Then, by strategically placing and arranging these top-sellers with the greatest margin, restaurants make gains in the industry. Per customer, they see a formidable boost in order sales and averages.

To achieve this, operators often need sophisticated software with artificial intelligence for restaurants to mine existing POS data through integration for menu-making insights. 

Making a menu is no simple puzzle for restaurant managers or owners when you consider these critical factors of concern:

After all is calculated and considered, owners can craft a menu with best-practice insights from other restaurants below. We’ll cover pricing, personalization, and persuasive menu item descriptions. 

Pricing Strategies for Restaurant Menus

When setting prices on a menu, most restaurants rely on “cost-plus” pricing: the cost of producing each item shows a profit margin which is then added to the listed menu price. 

This can be useful if it’s not a priority to review consumer demand and competitor prices to “economically” derive a menu item price. Still, cost-based pricing, value pricing, and competition pricing can still be worthwhile and competitive. 

  • Value-Added Pricing: What are customers really willing to pay for items of real value for their culture, morals, or beliefs about food?
  • Competition-Based Pricing: How does the market, our brand, and this cuisine determine a specific price point within the landscape?
  • Cost-Based Pricing: What do we need this menu item to cost based on the expense of cooking, serving, and delivering it?

For instance, with sustainable menu items, customers are statistically more willing to pay premium prices for value-driven dining. For such a conscious restaurant, it may make more sense to optimize against demand, competition, and its social value—rather than sticking to the “production-cost-plus-more” model. 

Restaurant Menus with Personalized Experiences

With the innovations of tech solutions in the restaurant industry, instant menu personalization and customization has become a significant selling ability. 

For one, it increases customer satisfaction when they perceive an attentive dining experience designed for them. From there, it’s natural for word-of-mouth restaurant marketing and loyalty programs to synergize. 

Beyond, restaurants capture business intelligence through customer data on these custom restaurant menus through delivery platforms. They also can reach customers more importantly through personal channels, especially when using text-to-order options.

Ultimately, a custom restaurant menu—personal and partially automated perhaps—helps restaurants charge more, sell more, and understand customers better. 

Restaurant Menu Descriptions

Descriptions stimulate (or stop) the item’s order. A simple ingredient list can spell success in some cases. At others, creativity and concern is demanded. Generally, you should use menu descriptions to add color to your customer’s concept of your restaurant and brand. 

Let each item speak on its own about a unique quality to be found on your custom restaurant menu. Research shows this is effective when menu descriptions influence many perceptions about your business:

  • Does the restaurant care about its ingredients?
  • What is the quality of the menu item described?
  • Is this a healthy item, a decadent dessert, or both?
  • How much satisfaction will this menu item bring?
  • Is this item worth the cost of ordering and delivery?

At every turn and question, you should help inspire customers to see your reasoning. Use descriptions to educate, elucidate, and finally entice. They should also compliment the visual flavor of your menu with an appropriate choice of words, tone, and approach.

Restaurant Menu Psychology: Motivating Customers

Understanding your market means using menu psychology to enhance your restaurant’s appeal—even at a great, off-premise distance. 

When you’ve dug into your data using a tool like Revolution Ordering, you’ll see how pricing, meal portioning, color usage, and even images affect the sales numbers on holistic dashboards. You can join a demo of online ordering with Revolution to see how this process might work for your restaurant’s menu optimization. 

Here’s an expert tip if you haven’t started that process of food costing and menu analysis yet: Hide your dollar signs. Presenting prices to customers affects their behavior, mood, and impression of your restaurant.

Spelled out prices actually fare better than numerical or symbolic pricing. In other words, keep your prices subtle and small, but your content bold. Sustainable menus may be different, since customers ignore such premium costs when the item is excellent, good, and virtuous by all measures. 

Find out how Revolution Ordering can help you increase sales through custom restaurant menus designed to stimulate online ordering.

Frequently Asked Questions About Custom Restaurant Menus

Discover the details of how to design a custom restaurant menu for your business’ benefit. 

Look to the most common questions that other restaurant owners have, and learn the process of making a menu to reach your brand goals. 

How can I design a custom restaurant menu?

You can design a menu best by analyzing the prime costs in your restaurant. Then, you’ll design your menu to compensate for these losses by positioning the top-selling, high-margin items in your service for increased consumption.

What is the best app to create a restaurant menu?

There may not be a single app for creating menus, especially when every item must be “costed,” every order analyzed, and every margin known. 

Instead, you’ll use multiple tools (or one with POS system integration) to source the restaurant intelligence you need to craft a market-ready menu. A printed menu can be drafted almost anywhere, but the analysis and reporting behind the design usually demands multiple tools:

What is a customized restaurant menu?

When restaurants engage restaurant menu customization, they streamline dishes. They make it possible, generally speaking, to maximize the value of ingredients against competitive forces in the ideal number of combinations. 

To learn more about menus, review our post on how to create a custom restaurant menu. Then, to get started designing your own, demo Revolution Ordering for a complete understanding of how this tool serves operations and supercharges sales. 

Leverage all available knowledge in your pursuit of the perfect restaurant menu with Revolution's free online resources for restaurants.