Names, Menus, and Your Restaurant

Imagine two identical pieces of day-old chocolate cake, placed on separate napkins.

On the left, the nameplate reads, “Chocolate Cake.”

On the right, the nameplate reads, “Belgian Black Forest Double Chocolate Cake.”

This simple name change has several results:

  • Customers will be more likely to buy when offered the Belgian variety. (27% more likely in one study comparing foods with descriptive vs. non-descriptive names). Who cares the  “Black Forest” is not in Belgium.
  • When offered both cakes, customers will rate the Belgian version as tasting better.

(Now, place the cake on a plate instead of a napkin and watch gross margin dollars soar. In one study, guests were willing to pay 140% more for a brownie served on a china plate than a napkin.)

It sounds simple and it sounds small, but these little name tweaks have been shown to make a big difference. Cost to you: nothing, just some creativity.

As you begin to name your dishes, consider using one of the following themes:

  • Geographic Labels – Wisconsin Cheese Platter, Cajun BBQ Ribs, Southern Fried Chicken. Can you play into local geographic themes?
  • Nostalgic Labels – Grandma’s Chocolate Chip Cookies, Country Fair Sweet Corn
  • Sensory Labels – Hearty Sizzling Steaks, Piping Hot Potatoes
  • Brand Labels – Be careful of trademarks here; consider a local business you can partner with to use a local “brand” name. Local meat processors or farms are a great bet.

Here’s the bottom line: we taste what we expect to taste. Set those expectations high.

For more, check out Brian Wansink’s, Mindless Eating: why we eat more than we think.

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