Branding Case Study: How Restaurants Have You Saying "Yes!"

Branding Case Study: How Restaurants Have You Saying "Yes!"

 Everything in branding and marketing is about making you the viewer feel or do something. Menus are the same thing. Menus were originally spoken, not printed, making it easier for the server to lead you down the path to selecting the bass dish for dinner because the kitchen has too much of it.

Today printed menus are designed to create expectations in the quality of food, type of establishment you are in, and lead you to the items that the restaurant wants you to purchase either because of the ease of prep or price point.


Menu design is a true art form. It combines typography, graphic design, and psychology. Here are a few of the standard practices:

  • In the West we tend to look and go to the right. So the most expensive or items they want to move will be on the right side of the menu.

  • Now let’s just look at the right side page, our eyes naturally go from the top left, diagonally to the middle right, then diagonally again to the lower left of the page. Studies show that we spend just a few more nanoseconds on the middle and right side of the menu because we are giving our eyes a place to rest for the moment. This is where entrees or call out boxes tend to be.

  • There are two thoughts to psychology on the layout of the dishes. (1) If they start with the highest priced item at the top of the section, they want you to order anything, but this dish. This is a “decoy dish” placed there to make every other item look like a smarter buy. (2) If the highest priced item is at the bottom of the section, it most likely has a lot of extras so shrimp and scallops and lobster and crab- etc. This dish though more costly is designed to be that splurge item by combining smaller sizes of dishes you most likely were interested in above. A sample platter to you and  a good value to the restaurant.

  • When it comes to the fonts, most places use clean text styles. There are a few higher end chains that will use a text like “Georgia” or “Times New Roman” These texts have decorative feet ( technically known as “serif.” )When your brain sees such “feet” you automatically assume the item will cost more than a clean font style. You also assume the business is older (aka not young, fresh, or hip).

  • Because making the decision to purchase an item stimulates the “pain” section of the brain- many brands leave off the dollar and cent signs. Our brains register the bigger visual footprint of a number with dollar sign and decimal as costing more money and in turn creates a bigger pain.

  • Lower cost brands will have the change listed on the menu for two reasons: (1) It makes the price seem more real. How many times has your grocery bill perfectly come out as an even dollar amount- rarely. (2) And because the number appears “real,” it feels like a good bargain. The consumer doesn’t feel like the brand is padding their profit margins.

  • Color can play a part in what you buy and the perception of the brand. Most restaurants stay away from this because color is a very perspective thing. No two people see a color the exact same way. In general though, green text makes you think of fresh and clean. Orange makes you excited about your meal. Red makes you hungry. You won’t see too much blue, purple or pink texts because these colors aren’t found in too many foods and therefore confuses the mind on exactly the quality of food being served. And a confused mind finds it hard to order.

For the rest of the low down on how restaurants make you say "Yes!" listen to the pocast below. 


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Ali Craig