Bar Menu Tips and Tricks: How to Boost Sales with Design


Your menu is the foundation of your bar’s marketing and presentation. It ties everything together and serves as the launching point for your entire customer experience. It informs your patrons, sells your services and builds your brand.

Whether online or in printed form, your menu is often the first part of your bar that people encounter. So you want to nail your first impression.

According to the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant and bar industry brings in an estimated $899 billion in sales each year. With all that money on the line, smarter people than me decided to conduct studies in search of an answer to the following question:

Can you boost sales by simply changing little things on your menu?

The answer, it turns out, is yes! Yes, you can.

Here are 6 simple design tricks you can implement with your bar’s menu to upsell high-margin items and increase sales.

If you want to change up your bar menu, but don’t have the time or design wherewithal, MustHaveMenus makes it easy with thousands of professional menu templates you can customize to fit your bar. Then you can connect them to a free QR code or a custom landing page to get your new menu in front of customers.

1.Drop Dollar Signs

This is an easy one. You know all the dollar signs on your menu? Get rid of them. Customers don’t need that symbol to understand the context behind the numbers in front of them. All the dollar sign does is remind them that they’re spending their valuable, hard-earned money, which in turn, makes them want to spend less.

It seems simple, but dropping the dollar sign transforms the number into something more abstract, and our stupid caveman brains no longer place the same inherent value on it.

2.Cut One Cent

A similar trick that seems too simple and good to be true: drop a cent off of any drink or dish with a whole number for its price. For some reason, 5.99 seems a lot more affordable and palatable than 6.

Need further evidence? Think about the last time you checked out at the grocery store. How many of the items were priced at something like $2.99 or $4.97? I’m guessing most. The same trick that grocery stores have been using on us dummies for decades can work just as well for bars and restaurants.

3. Sell High to Start

This will seem counterintuitive, because most of us are used to seeing the highest prices items at the bottom of the menu. It feels like a normal progression, right? Start low, move to high.

But many restaurants are switching that up. Instead of starting a menu section with your cheapest item, go with something on the more expensive side. That will set a tone for that section and make the items that follow seam more affordable and a great value.

4. Communicate with Colors

Your color choices say so much about your food and restaurant. More than just a way to build your brand aesthetic, they can actually communicate feelings and desires to your customers.

For instance:

  • Red creates a sense of urgency. Use it to draw attention to high-margin items, promotions, specials, big announcements, etc. Anything you want to jump off the page.
  • Oranges, reds and yellows are appetites stimulants. Consider using them for headers for accent background colors.
  • Blues are naturally refreshing, so they work well for drinks, refreshments and tropical designs.
  • Green signifies healthy and fresh, so it works best for vegan options, salad bars, smoothies, etc.

5. Focus on your Fonts

Fonts are more than just decorative covers for your words. Similar to colors, they impart subconscious impressions on your customers, so it’s important to put some thought into what types of fonts work best for your menu and food.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Rounder fonts like Cooper or Gascogne convey sweetness, so they work well for dessert, cafe and bakery menus.
  • Angular fonts like Hammerhead are associated with sourness or bitters, so they’re perfect for beer and spirit menus.
  • Italics convey a perception of quality, which is why you often see them at fine dining establishments.
  • Bolds and underlines obviously get people’s attention, so like the color red, they are great for announcements and specials.
  • Maybe my favorite: when labeling a wine, use a hard-to-read font. Customers associate them with higher quality.

6. Layouts for the Layman

In order to understand how to best layout your menu, you first need to understand how customers typically read a menu.

In general, it happens how you would expect — left to right, top to bottom. Same way you would read a book.

Unlike a book, though, menus have hot spots. Studies with eye-tracking technologies have shown that people tend to start at the top right corner first. That makes it the best spot to put your best-selling or high-margin items.

7. Divide and Conquer

People don’t have long attention spans. And thanks to the internet, they’re only growing shorter.

For this reason, the best practice when laying out your menu is to keep sections short. If your sections grow to more than 10 or 12 items, customers’ eyes will glaze over, and they’ll miss the meat in the middle.

I usually recommend 4-7 items per section, but no hard and fast rule exists for this. Feel out what’s best for your bar. But remember: if you’re choosing between lots of menu items in one section, or lots of sections on your menu, go with the sections.

8. Attract Attention

Use visual cues to direct your customer’s attention around your menu to the spots you want them focused on.

  • Boxes, bursts, frames, underlines, logos, and highlights are all effective ways to break up the text and signal to your customers that an item is worth their attention.
  • Images can accomplish this as well, but they carry more risk. Menu imagery is often associated with fast food restaurants and family chains. Not the worst thing, but something to keep in mind if you don’t want to create that association in the minds of your customers. Plus, you run the risk of an unappetizing photo, or on the flip side, customers feeling cheated when the dish doesn’t match the mouth-watering imagery.
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