How much of an asset is your restaurant menu? While almost everyone associates the service staff in a restaurant with sales and customer service, few people view a menu as a marketing tool.

The simple truth is that your restaurant’s menu can be its greatest marketing asset, if, that is, it’s designed well. With the right combination of design and copy, a menu can act as a powerful sales asset, driving a huge part of your restaurant’s revenue.

From encouraging people to order desserts, drinks and other extras to putting your most profitable and popular dishes in front of your target audience, a great menu is a valuable asset that can help your restaurant or café achieve its financial goals.

The difference between a good menu and a great menu can be subtle, but it’s easy to notice when you pay attention. Try these four tips to write your menu for maximum sales, maximum revenue and maximum customer satisfaction.

Keep it simple. Complicated menus are often confusing

How long does it take to navigate through your menu? The longer your restaurant’s menu is, the more challenging and time consuming it becomes for diners to find the dishes they’re interested in.

Long, complicated menus can leave customers feeling confused and uncertain about what to order. With so many choices, customers can fall into the paradox of choice – a situation in which it’s harder to make any decision at all.

Keep your menu short and simple. The ideal solution is usually to give customers a choice of 5-10 dishes within each category – for example, mains or appetizers. This amount provides a good level of choice without creating any potential confusion.

Avoid using currency symbols. They make items ‘feel’ more expensive

It’s one of the oldest tricks of psychological menu design, and for a reason. Including currency symbols on your menu – for example, the $ or £ signs – often has the effect of making menu items seem more expensive than they really are.

The reason for this isn’t certain – some people suspect it’s because financial symbols make people associate each item with spending money more – but the effects are all too real.

Instead of including currency symbols in your restaurant or café menu, list all menu prices as numerals alone. This clearly communicates the price of each item without associating it with the act of spending money, which can potentially deter diners.

High-end restaurant? Avoid using psychological pricing in your menu

Every business owner has heard of psychological pricing – lowering prices by a cent or another arbitrarily small amount to make them seem lower than they are. While this trick dominates retail pricing, it’s often a bad idea for high-end restaurants.

Although psychological pricing works, it’s closely associated with the priced-based value big-box retailers and discount stores are known for. In a high-end restaurant, it can often send the wrong message – that you value cost over quality.

If you operate a high-end restaurant or café, use round numbers for all of your menu items. Although a number like $100 might look more costly than $99.95, it lacks any of the baggage of psychological pricing and communicates quality above value.

Design and write your menu for a 100-second attention span

Did you know that most customers will spend around 100 seconds looking at your restaurant’s menu before making a decision? Customers will spend slightly more than one and half minutes looking at your menu – it’s vital to make the time count.

Make the most of the average customer’s 100-second attention span by ensuring that your menu can be completely read, from cover to cover, in under 60 seconds.

This gives customers time to read your menu once, then make a decision about the dish they would like to order. It also gives customers time to compare dishes and a selection of drinks, appetizers, desserts and other optional extras.