Online or digital, menus need to be visually pleasing and user friendly
From a basic list of pizza toppings to a well-engineered online ordering process, the right menu design can make the difference between a customer placing an order or going elsewhere. Pizzeria owners must consider certain design details when updating a menu or adding a digital menu, including how many items to list, whether to include photos, and how to make the process one that encourages people to order more food.
Get to the Point
Whether in print or digital, use concise descriptions of menu items. “People don’t want to read and read,” says Larry Fiel, vice president of marketing and communications for PDQ Signature Systems in Warminster, Pennsylvania. “They are hungry and they want to order.”
The need for brevity is necessary, especially if people are reading the menu on the small screen of a smartphone. That’s becoming more common, as during the COVID-19 crisis many restaurants switched from paper menus to QR codes to access an online menu. That coronavirus safety protocol turned out to be a good way to save paper, not to mention costs, so it will likely continue.
For years, the oft-repeated wisdom was that the top right of a printed menu was the sweet spot, and the bottom left was the dead zone. These days, many menus are posted online and people simply scroll through them. Fiel says some time-tested tactics are still relevant. For example, list prices without dollar signs, and not in a straight column, because that draws the customer’s attention to how much the meal will cost. He recommends featuring the most expensive item in the center of the menu. The customer will look at the item, decide it’s too expensive, and then read the item below it. “That’s where you put your high margin item,” he says.
Organize the menu into categories that make sense to the reader. “Customers are accustomed to navigating menus by food type or courses,” says Hoang Nguyen, director of client services and co-founder of Leewood, Kansas-based Menufy. “They will be less inclined to order more items if they struggle to navigate your menu. A restaurant’s online and printed menus should make it easy for customers to find the item they have in mind.” As for placement, Nguyen recommends listing the most profitable item first for each category.
Nguyen recommends including high-quality photos on online menus. “Menufy tested this and found that after a sample of client restaurants added professional photos to the restaurant’s website, order volume increased by an average of more than 75 percent,” he says. On printed menus, however, use fewer images, as too many can overwhelm customers.
Be selective about photos. “We choose photos based on how the cheese and crust looks to make sure it looks super appetizing,” says Amber Johnson, director of marketing for Medina, Ohio-based Romeo’s Pizza Franchise, LLC., based in Medina, Ohio. “Then we review the color composition of the photo to ensure it meets our brand standards.”
Romeo’s Pizza has photos on digital menus and on print menus in stores. While digital offers the opportunity to offer more information, avoid putting too much on the ordering site. “Make sure the user experience is easy to navigate,” Johnson says. “Don’t overcrowd the menu trying to list everything in significant detail.”
Make Ordering Easy
If there is too much detail, customers skim the information and miss something important. “We used to have crazy pies and combos, but people ordering online don’t read all the ingredients,” says Dave Kuban, who owns the Norwalk, Connecticut location of Planet Pizza. “The food would get there and people would say, I didn’t know it had bacon, I don’t eat bacon,’ or This has white sauce, where’s the red sauce?'”
While specialty pizzas with whimsical names are still available at the restaurant, the online menu doesn’t list those. Online orders are limited to build-your-own pizza, with a choice of toppings for small, medium or large pies. That way, people choose their toppings, and there is no risk of someone accidentally ordering a pie with an ingredient they didn’t want. “You don’t want to lose that future business,” Kuban says.
Don’t overwhelm customers at the store either, especially if they are ordering from a kiosk. “Keep it simple,” says Christina N. Stephens, project coordinator for Rochester, N.Y.-based Microworks POS Solutions. The customer is probably using the kiosk while others are waiting, so keep the menu clean and simple. “Don’t overload it with too many groups and items. Make the start to finish of each item simple. Don’t require too many clicks in order to add an item to your cart.”
Offering too many options can cause operational issues. Although it’s important to let customers order what they want, it’s better not to offer endless customization. That can lead to extended time at the kiosk station, and opens the possibility of errors. “Kitchens are busy and offering every item to be specifically cooked and every topping substituted leads to errors and inaccurate makes,” Stephens says. “That obviously leads to unhappy consumers and profit loss from either the loss of a customer or the re-make of the items.”
Give Customers What They Want
Others maintain that the ability to swap out the type of crust or add a specific type of cheese is an important consumer expectation. “Customizing products is a huge benefit to customers,” says Mac Malchow, director of national marketing and menu innovation for Toppers Pizza, based in Whitewater, Wisconsin. “Leaving this out can quickly lead to bounces from your menu and website.”
While online ordering grew during the pandemic, and is expected to continue, the process does have a limitation. “With an in-store menu, you get the benefit of an interaction with a team member,” Malchow says. “That doesn’t happen with a digital menu, so you need to treat it almost like it’s a marketing collateral that needs to sell products.”
For a pizzeria, good menu design can do more than simply letting your customers know what’s available. “If you can balance selling with a strong user experience, you’ve got something special,” Malchow says.
Nora Caley is a freelance writer who covers small business, finance and lifestyle topics.