BBC Future has brought you in-depth and rigorous stories to help you navigate the current pandemic, but we know that’s not all you want to read. So now we’re dedicating a series to help you escape. We’ll be revisiting our most popular features from the last three years in our Lockdown Longreads.
You’ll find everything from the story about the world’s greatest space mission to the truth about whether our cats really love us, the epic hunt to bring illegal fishermen to justice and the small team which brings long-buried World War Two tanks back to life. What you won’t find is any reference to, well, you-know-what. Enjoy.
With a theatrical flourish, a sombre, leather-bound document is placed in front of you. Inside, the pages bear a tight italicised script and your eyes are drawn to a couple of items that are embellished with flamboyant descriptions. Then you turn to the waiter and order.
Hopefully a delicious meal is now on its way, but what led you to choose the food you did? Was it simply because you liked the sound of the steak dish you picked or did something else influence your decision?
You may not realise it, but the menu probably played a far greater role than you’d credit. Far from being glorified pricelists, restaurant menus are sophisticated marketing tools that can nudge customers towards certain choices. Restaurant menus can even tell us what to think.
“Even the binding around the menu is passing us important messages about the kind of experience we are about to have,” explains Charles Spence, a professor in experimental psychology and multisensory perception at the University of Oxford. “There are a lot of elements on a menu that can be changed to nudge the customer in one way or another.”
Even simple tweaks to the order of items on the menu or the typeface used can have a significant impact on people’s choices. There is now an entire industry known as “menu engineering”, dedicated to designing menus that convey certain messages to customers, encouraging them to spend more and make them want to come back for a second helping.
“For a large chain that might have a million people a day coming into their restaurants around the world, it can take up to 18 months to put out a menu as we test everything on it three times,” says Gregg Rapp, a menu engineer based in Palm Springs, California, who has worked on menus for small neighbourhood cafes and multinational giants during his 34-year-long career. “Customers only spend a few minutes looking at the menu, so we want them to use this time efficiently. If they can find an item they want quickly, then they can spend the extra time looking at other items they might order.”
Source : www.bbc.com