Neuro Your Menu!

Neuromarketing is everywhere.

Gastronomic marketing strategies and understanding consumer behavior in a restaurant will help restaurants raise their sells. As the menu is the most powerful instrument for selling in a restaurant, using neuromarketing techniques for its design could make the clients order the most profitable dishes.

Making decisions concerning the marketing strategies of a restaurant is hard, so eye tracking devices for studying consumer behavior seem to be the right instrument for research. The knowledge of viewing patterns and gaze motions is translated into increased sales.

Most of the strategies that studies revealed to be effective include:

  • Most profitable dishes should be highlighted in boxes, or placed near pictures of them.
  • Establishing a high price for some dishes, so that the others seem cheaper. Expensive items should be placed in the top right corner, as there they catch consumer’s attention and make the others seem more affordable by comparison.
  • Having a description for each dish increases the orders with 27%.
  • Not to sort the products by price, as customers would choose the cheapest dishes.
  • Positioning the elements.

Using eye tracking, you can find out the areas in the menu where most customers look and include there the most profitable dishes. Studies report that people will first look at the top right corner of a menu, so they will give more attention and time to the dishes placed there. There is also a study that aimed to determine whether a customer’s selection of a menu item was correlated to the item’s position on the menu or by chance concluded that the middle part is the first spot of eye contact (Choi, J.G., Woo, B. W., Mok, J. W., 2010, An Experiment on Psychological Gaze Motion: A Re-Examination of Item Selection Behavior of Restaurant Customers, Journal of Global Business & Technology (06/10) Vol. 6, No. 1, P. 68). The gaze sequence continues to the upper part and then the bottom section. For the double-panel menu, the initial gaze again came to the middle section. When presented with the triple-fold menu, customers first went to the middle section, followed by the upper part of the left page and ending at the lower part of the right page. Findings also suggest that a substantial number of customers are likely to choose an item that their eyes are instantly drawn to. The results indicate that placing the most strategic items on any section of the menu other than the middle would not be as effective in attracting the customer’s attention.

Figure 1. The scanpath that dominates consumer reading patterns of two-page restaurant menus

Figure 2. The most influential area in the menu lies just above the mid point of the right page

Figure 3. Diners read menus like a book

Figure 1 shows the scanpath that dominates consumer reading patterns of two-page restaurant menus (Bowen & Morris, 1995; Hug & Warfel, 1991; Kelson, 1994; Scanlon, 1998; Main, 1994; Miller, 1992; Panitz, 2000; National Restaurant Association, 2007; Kotschevar, 2008; Pavesic, D.V., 2011 in Yang, S.S., 2012). Although this pattern has not been empirically validated nor has its underlying reasoning been explained, based on industry convention the most desirable locations on the menu would lie at positions 1 (primacy), 7 (recency), and perhaps position 5 (where the gaze pattern passes through most frequently).

Another study suggested that the consumer focus on a single-fold menu with two facing pages lies in the region above a diagonal line cutting across both facing pages. Of this region, the most influential area lies just above the mid point of the right page (Figure 2).

On the other hand, San Francisco State researcher Sybil Yang states in her study published in 2012 that the ‘sweet spot’, used by restaurants to ‘place’ the items they hope to sell most of, actually has no effect. The ‘spot’ – usually just above the line on the right-hand page, is not where diners tend to look the most. The study suggests that on average diners read menus like a book, and that their gaze doesn’t linger noticeably longer over any particular location on the menu. Yang found no evidence of a sweet spot where eyes tended to focus for the longest time, but she did notice a ‘sour spot’ where readers focused for the least amount of time. The sour spot contained information about the restaurant itself, and a  list of salads.

Studies seem to be contradictory, as some state that the best spot for menu items is the top right corner, others suggest that this area is somewhere in the center of the menu, and the last one that states that menus are read just like a book.

Future research should measure whether consumers are more likely to purchase the items they see first, last or more frequently. Also, these results could be verified with studies using neuroimaging devices. 

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