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How to write great restaurant menu descriptions

Based on the new eBook: How to write great restaurant menu descriptions, available at Amazon and Kobo. A thoughtfully conceived food and beverage menu can boost revenues by more than 20% according to university research in the U.S. A CBS report says menu descriptions are “everything,” and menus can be influential to drive diners to menu items that you want to get the most attention. There is psychology involved in menu writing and creation, and attention must be paid to the five senses. The human brain can’t think without involving the senses, so knowing how to integrate sight, taste, smell, touch, and sound is very important. Further, a menu can be part of the entertainment package and it’s vital to people with health concerns. This show details a system for optimizing menu creation.

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How to write great restaurant menu descriptions

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  1. It’s all about the senses • Restaurant managers should read this to: • boost revenues • increase diner satisfaction and • gain repeat patronage

  2. 3 ways to boost restaurant revenue • Raise prices • Increase the number of customers through advertising and increase repeat purchases while retaining existing customers • Increase the average ticket with add-on selling and upselling. This is what improved menu copy writing can help to do.

  3. Menu approach to increase revenue Highly descriptive, sensory menu copy for food, beverage, wine, and beer selections can greatly boost revenue. Most menus, unfortunately, are neither descriptive, sensory, nor complete. From this show, and its companion eBook, you will gain insights and practical tools to improve diner response to your menu.

  4. Comprehensive menus save time • A well conceived menu, with complete selection descriptions, is a huge time saver. Diners can read and answer their own questions—instead of relying on servers to explain every ingredient and preparation technique. • Creative menus with good descriptions are also entertaining, a real plus to dining experiences—they can make mouths water in anticipation.

  5. Why the menu is so important • It is your “first” communication with your diners • With it, you can get diners excited about the taste experiences that are to follow • Good menus enable diners to make good choices that they’ll be happy with during and after dining

  6. Good menu descriptors • Build value perception that translates instantly into higher revenues and profits • The key here is to create interest and commitment to menu items diners may not have otherwise considered

  7. Quantity Quality Price Brand names Point of origin (health consideration) Sensory terminology Food preparation techniques Visual presentation Dietary considerations Differentiation: why this item is “special” You can inform diners about…

  8. Countless words for descriptions • Spicy • Zesty • Robust • Crisp • Scented • Fresh picked…and a thousand more…

  9. Talking about smell (olfactory) • Aroma • Fragrant • Spicy • Bouquet • Tang • And don’t forget apple, citrus, bacon, chocolate, parmesan, rosemary, garlic, coffee, tomato…all can excite taste buds

  10. And for sight • Wedges • Whole • Colorful • Diced • Julienne • Chunks • Fresh, green, etc.

  11. The human tongue senses only • Sweet • Sour • Salty • Bitter • and umami, sometimes called savory (connected to aged, fermented, and meaty dishes) Interesting article on taste: Taste article

  12. Tactile “feel” in your mouth • Toasted • Crisp • Juicy • Delicate • Iced • Melt in the mouth

  13. Other sense stimulators • Skillet seared • Sizzling • Poached • Simmered • Pan fried/Wok fried • Charbroiled

  14. Good menu descriptors Give menu items interesting names Here, your imagination is your only limitation as long as names match your intended positioning as “fine dining,” or “fun and a bit adventuresome.”

  15. Tell your whole story: ethos • Many restaurants have long histories, or owners with interesting backgrounds…this all builds a brand, so tell your story with words and photos on your menu • Don’t forget chef credentials and positive media reviews: builds persuasive ethos

  16. Goal: highly competent service staff We believe servers should possess comprehensive knowledge of ALL menu selections: food and beverage. This requires deep understanding of ingredients, preparation techniques, health considerations, and sensory attributes — what will make diners absolutely happy with their selections.

  17. Menus: Pavlov’s Bell of eating out Dining out is, or should be, a highly sensory pleasure that excites senses: olfactory (smell), taste, texture, sight, service, ambience etc. The menu should be part of that experience by establishing mouth-watering anticipation of sensory delights…but, how many menus are well planned?

  18. Words to make mouths water • “Black truffle vinaigrette with crosnes." • Crosnes are small larva-shaped vegetables, crunchy and not much else. They do very little in the dish, but on menus, they can do a spectacular job of moving diners to a dish they may not otherwise have tried.

  19. About menus Fresh imported truffles sell for hundreds of dollars a pound, but byproducts like truffle oils and butters have democratized the concept into the adjective "truffled." Nobody looks twice at a parsnip on a menu, but a truffled parsnip gets noticed.

  20. About menus • Chain restaurant menus reassure with "fun" names —"Moons Over My Hammy," "Death by Chocolate.” But too cute can turn diners off. • Language can be extravagantly specific: exact weight of a pork chop, the number of popcorn shrimp on a platter, and how many slices of cheese top a bacon double-cheeseburger.

  21. About menus For more precision still, many chain restaurants put pictures of their offerings on the menu, something that is never seen in more upscale restaurants. The hand-holding guarantees the worried diner: “There will be no unpleasant surprise here.”

  22. About menus • Blue Chipping: As dining gets finer, menu language graduates from reassuring to showing off. • A certain class of adjective appears on restaurant menus and almost nowhere else: Roasted, Crisped, Seared, Glazed, and Lacquered (often hyphenated, for emphasis, with the likes of "Pan-, Oven-, Wok-, Maple-, and Honey-.

  23. About menus • Traffic-jammed menus use sheer numbers of components to persuade you that you are getting your money's worth. • "Rosemary Basted Loin of Venison, Maple Glazed Endive, Vanilla Spiced Sweet Potato Purée, Chocolate Venison Jus, and Pickled Cranberries." Nothing says "don't try this at home" like Chocolate Venison Jus.

  24. About menus • You can also appeal, in a very detailed way, to the trend toward health consciousness. This is a PATHOS approach. • For example…

  25. Romaine Lettuce Sprouts, peppers Tzatziki whole grain extra lean meat blended with texturized vegetable protein Tomato (lycopine/cancer) Low fat cheese low salt humus or babaganoosh Gov’t allows 30% fat in burger meat 30% fat in plain ground, around 5% in extra lean beef, zero% fat in TVP. Romaine has six times as much vitamin C and five to 10 times as much beta carotene as iceberg Sprouts: rich in vitamins A,B,C,E and K and amino acids. Baby Boomer Heart Smart Burger

  26. About menus Take freshness to the next level, calling greens "gathered," wild mushrooms "foraged," and little microgreens "hand-plucked." Also "Freshly Harpooned Tuna Sashimi With Shaved Fennel Dressed in Herb Oils and a Spicy Marinade."

  27. Using Descriptive Copy to Market a Product Use a dictionary and thesaurus to find new words to describe sensual concepts: moist, tasty, tender, sumptuous, tart, sweet, smooth, crisp, delicious, etc.

  28. Average descriptions don’t make mouths water • The descriptions below are typical of those found in menus; they give ingredients, but DO NOT evoke emotions or the senses. As such, they don’t sell well. • SpanakopitaSpinach and feta cheese wrapped in dough, served with Greek salad and pita. • Greek Roasted Chicken Seasoned and marinated half chicken, roasted and broiled, served with Greek salad, basmati rice and pita.

  29. Menus should tell stories The Tolstoy: StoliElit vodka martini. Lush and mouth filling, this vodka, from Gensac spring water, is freeze distilled and then filtered nine times through charcoal and Siberian birch. It is served with three colossal queen Mezzetta olives stuffed with pimento; these sun infused mild, fruity, olives are imported from ancient Mediterranean olive groves and lend a fresh, green bouquet. This liberating libation brings out the adventuresome Cossack spirit.

  30. A system to produce evocative ad copy • You can use the following system to produce copy for any product or service, not just for menu items. • The key is thorough analysis of all ingredients, benefits, features (ethos, pathos, logos) and then weave all these into a compelling and interesting story.

  31. Step 1 to create effective copy • Analyze and breakdown all the key ingredients in the dish or beverage. For example, a Grilled Pancetta Prawns recipe could include the following key ingredients.

  32. Grilled Pancetta Prawns • Ingredients: • Tiger prawns • Pancetta • Sundried tomato • Sage • Olive Oil • Tabasco

  33. Step 2 for effective copy creation • By analysing the key ingredients, and by then brainstorming solo or with staff, attach sensory words that would logically be aligned with the ingredients. For example:

  34. Step 2: also use a thesaurus Using an online thesaurus, the following synonyms were found for the word “tasty”: delicious, appetizing, delectable, delish, divine, flavorful, flavorsome, flavory, full-flavored, heavenly, luscious, piquant, savory, scrumptious, spicy, tasteful, yummy, zestful, exquisite, rich

  35. Descriptive Copy Used • Irresistible • Skillfully • Robust • Aromatic • Delicately • Delectable • Elegant

  36. Step 3 for effective menu copy • Merge the ingredients words with words your research and brainstorming produced. This can take considerable time, but it’s fun and can generate very impressive results. For example:

  37. Grilled Pancetta Prawns Irresistible tiger prawns skillfully wrapped in robust pancetta, aromatic basil and sage leaves, touched with Tabasco and threaded delicately on bamboo skewers, then quickly grilled to a delectable crispy finish. Served with fresh, aromatic crusty bread and a salad with cold-pressed virgin olive oil dressing yields a light, heart healthy, yet elegant dish (only 700 calories)

  38. More examples using the 3 steps • Ingredients first • Sensory words next • Merge the two…

  39. Blackened Salmon • Ingredients: • Fresh salmon fillet • Cajun seasoning • Corn • Red peppers • Red onion • Mango • Lime and parsley

  40. Descriptive Copy Used • Fresh • Wild • Sizzling • Perfection • Zesty • Pleasantly accompanied • Flavorful • Delicately • Irresistible

  41. Fresh, wild, Alaskan salmon fillet sizzling to crispy, blackened perfection. Traditionally pan fried in a zesty but not too spicy Cajun seasoning. Pleasantly accompanied with a flavorful sweet medley of mango, corn nibblets, diced red peppers and red onion, delicately sprinkled with parsley and a dash of fresh lime to give that irresistible zing sure to please any palate. Blackened Salmon

  42. You can do the same thing with cocktails • Again, by carefully analyzing cocktail ingredients, and by then forging a synthesis with the senses, you can create a very compelling “story” to sell drinks to patrons, be they cocktails, wines, or spirits.

  43. Apple Martini Ingredients • 1 part Bombay Sapphire Gin • 1 part sour apple schnapps • 1 part apple juice • ½ tsp lemon juice • Just the above ingredients aren’t very compelling, but if you delve into what each ingredient contains, the story evolves

  44. To start, analyze what gin is… Nothing says holiday quite like a martini, the drink that is synonymous with celebrations and culture. Create a classic holiday combination with Bombay Sapphire. This is no ordinary gin, but a perfect blending of exotic flavors to enliven the senses: the tang of Juniper berries, Cardamom from Sri Lanka, Cassia bark from Vietnam, Orange peel from Spain, Coriander seed from the Czech Republic, and Angelica root from Germany… Then go on to build on the sales story by focusing on every other ingredient…yes, it’s overkill, but the system ensures thoroughness.

  45. Descriptive Copy Used • Seductive • Aromatic • Spicy • Tart • Arousing • Calming (green) • Bursting

  46. Apple Martini A seductive blend of Bombay Sapphire Gin and aromatic sour apple—tart! This will arouse all your senses…. (proceed to build on ingredient and sensory descriptors gleaned from your research)

  47. A look at another, more complex cocktail • Note the number of sensory ingredients in a Long Island Iced Tea, next slide. • From all these ingredients, and each has its own appeal, the descriptor could be extensive: taste, visuals, olfactory, temperature, how they are made, etc., you can create a very compelling “story” to sell this drink to patrons

  48. Long Island Iced Tea 1 part Grey Goose vodka (explore the story of Grey Goose vodka)1 part 1800® Tequila (made from the heart of the agave plant: interesting)1 part rum (sugar cane juice & molasses)1 part gin (juniper essence and more…)1 part triple sec (dried peels of Caribbean oranges)1 1/2 parts sweet and sour mix1 splash Coca-Cola®

  49. About wine…educate your staff To help your staff become more knowledgeable with wine descriptors, ask them to read about wines from this link: About Wines Every wine varietal has distinct characteristics that both your menu descriptions, augmented by competent servers, can relate to diners. For example: Link about pairing wine with foods: Pairing Wines Clip

  50. Cabernet Sauvignon …is considered by many to be the premier wine grape in the world. Taste characteristics:  dark cherry, cedar, tobacco, black currant, cool climate growth can give green pepper or olive. wines smell like black currants with a degree of bell pepper. Cabernet sauvignon lovers typically want to know that the wine if “full bodied,” “smooth,” and “fragrant.” Comprehensive wine knowledge requires a lot of research. SERVING TIP: appeal to diners by keying the right wine with the right food selections. By asking diners their preferences first, you can be sure to suggest the right wine for their tastes.

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