A survey of 270 consumers to uncover the decision-making process diners undergo when ordering from a menu has been carried out by Elliotts, the integrated agency for the Hospitality and Leisure sector. The findings emphasise the important role of menu science in driving greater profitability for hospitality operators.
The saying ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’ is particularly pertinent to hospitality operators, especially when you consider how quickly diners decide on a dish. Of those surveyed, three in four (75%) had found something they would consider ordering within two minutes, with 65% arriving at a final decision 60 seconds later. This highlights the ever-decreasing window of opportunity operators have to influence customer buying behaviours – especially when it comes to encouraging them to purchase higher-margin dishes. For some, this decision-making process starts even before setting foot in the restaurant or pub, with 63% of consumers admitting that they judge what a venue is like by reading its menu ahead of their visit.
Perhaps spoilt with too much choice, or through lack of culinary ambition, UK consumers are creatures of habit. In fact, familiarity is a key factor for three in five diners (60%), who would be more likely to order a dish they’ve had before, during a previous visit to a restaurant or pub. When it comes to capturing the attention of diners, interestingly, two in three said they only read the full descriptions of up to five menu items, with the same percentage of respondents (67%) citing short, concise menu descriptions as preference.
Ann Elliott, CEO, Elliotts commented: “Competition amongst hospitality operators remains fierce and if that wasn’t bad enough, operators now have to contend with increases in the Living Wage, food prices, business rates and rents. In addition, average spend per head is on the decrease and operator costs rising. As a result, restaurant and pub operators need to consider innovative methods of increasing profitability without passing these costs onto their customers. The role of the menu within the wider customer journey is the key to getting this balance right, however, not enough operators are developing their menus with profitability in mind and therefore missing an extremely lucrative trick.”