How To Encourage Greater Spending

Putting a menu together can be tricky, but making a menu that actually encourages people to buy can be a lot trickier. It’s easy to fall into the traps of listing items by price or trying too hard to entice buyers and end up putting them off or making them feel targeted. There are a number of different techniques to employ and various ways of going about encouraging greater spending in your restaurant. So I thought we’d have a look at a couple of the ways of getting customers to stop thinking so much about the money they’re spending, and getting them to focus more on just ordering some good food.

The Choices

One problem we ran into at one point with our place was the menu size and all the variations we ended up including. The worst offender was the desserts. We had the main menu item and then so many options. Sauce or no sauce? Which of these three sauces? Would you like ice cream? which of these two flavours? Would you like chocolate dusting? Our intentions were pure, we wanted customers to be able to have just what they wanted. But it only resulted in analysis paralysis and requests for even more alterations. Once we stripped back the menu and streamlined to just a few simple items people found it much easier to make a decision and had a much smoother experience when actually ordering.


More choices for customer just means it’s going to be a harder decision. Some marketers actually reply on this, confusing the customer so much they just choose the first/next thing they see. This is a confusopoly, a marketing method meant to confuse the customer into just picking and is a popular strategy with mobile phone plans and video game release windows, but the nature of the technique makes outcomes unpredictable and it’s actual success rates difficult to measure. There is also the fact that it’s a particularly underhanded way of doing things.

The Prices

How you show the prices on your menu can have a huge impact on which items customers will choose, and why they choose the ones they do. When a menu shows the prices on the right, particularly if ordered lowest to highest, people are more likely to decide based on the price. Placing the price at the of a description or underneath the item gets in the way of our natural inclination to scan the prices and base our decision on cost.

Researchers at Cornell University have found that how prices are shown has a significant effect on sales. For example, during a seating at the Culinary Institute of America’s St. Andrews Cafe in New York, researchers observed what happened when a price was presented in the usual dollars and cents (“$10.00”), a round number with no currency (“10”), and as words (“ten dollars”). Getting rid of those simple cues that remind us that we’re about to spend money makes the price as inconspicuous as possible, which can be enough to encourage spending.

There are a lot of ways of using a menu to encourage greater spending in your restaurant and we’ve only talked about a couple of examples here. In the coming weeks we’ll return to the subject to look at more approaches, such as the ordering of items on the menu and even something as basic as the wording and descriptions of food.

Thanks for reading!

Ben