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You could pay a menu engineer big bucks to convert your menu into a lean, mean selling machine. Or, just put their best menu tips into play.

There are dozens of research-backed menu strategies out there, proven to increase sales. (Get rid of dollar signs, use fancy fonts, and opt for heavy paper…to name a few top menu tips). Read on for 7 brilliantly simple ways to hack your menu for ultimate profitability.

1) Magic Number 9

In 1964, the Searchers had a hit song with “Love Potion Number 9.” That should be your new jam, because customers love the number 9.

MIT and University of Chicago researchers found that customers bought more of an item priced at $39 – compared to the same item priced at $34.

Here’s one of the easiest menu tips. Edit your menu and add a buck to any $8, $18, or $28 items. Customers won’t mind the slight increase, and you’ll be on cloud 9 with the extra revenue. Many menu engineers keep menu tips like this to themselves…now you’ve got their secrets.

2) Dollar Signs Point in the Wrong Direction

Wait, that $9 item still needs some TLC to become even more desirable to customers. Ditch the dollar sign. Cornell University research revealed that customers spend more when dollar signs are removed from menus.

Whatever you do, don’t add double zeroes (9.00). People subconsciously “read” double zeroes as a hundred; it signifies expense. $900 for a plate of nachos? No thanks. Yes, menu tips often involve a little psychology.

Who knew hacking your menu could be as simple as hitting “delete” on dollar signs?

Download the Ultimate Guide to Creating a Menu that Sells, Here

3) See Red: Colorful Menu Tips for Bigger Sales

According to a recent Gallup Poll, the average person spends just 109 seconds browsing your menu. Your goal is to visually guide them right to your highest margin menu items. Don’t put them all in one area. Scatter those profitable dishes throughout your menu, then use the color red to draw their eyes. It could be a red box behind special items, or red text.

Why do menu tips from experts recommend red? A Scientific American article shows that red stimulates the brain and sparks excitement and attraction. For example, one study found that men ranked women wearing red clothes as being more attractive. While there’s no study that proves it, most menu engineers suggest avoiding blue in their menu tips (it’s too calming).

4) Run the Food Cost Formula (The Most Important of All Menu Tips)

When it comes to the best menu tips, the most important one involves a little math. Time to run a formula that uncovers your food cost percentage! Fortunately, there’s a free food cost calculator you can use.

The formula will reveal if you’re pricing your menu items to: a) cover your food costs and b) build in a healthy profit margin. Even the best menu tips and design hacks can’t compensate for an underpriced menu. Here’s the formula in a nutshell:

(What you paid for the ingredients) / (What price you sell the dish for) = Your food cost percentage

Example: ($4 ingredients for a gourmet burger) / ($9 menu price) = .44 or 44%

Oh uh. That food cost percentage is too high! Your profit margin is only 56%. Most restaurant experts recommend a 25-35% food cost percentage in their menu tips and best practices. That means your margin is 65-75%. To figure out what you should charge for that gourmet burger, just reverse the formula.

(What you paid for the ingredients) / (your ideal food cost percentage) = Ideal menu item price

Example: ($4 ingredients for a gourmet burger) / (.30 ideal food cost percentage) = $13.30

Looks like it’s time to either raise prices on your burger, or seek out lower-priced ingredients. Before tackling any other menu tips, crunch your numbers and price your menu for profit.

5) Let Your Menu Do the Heavy Lifting

Your menu needs to pull some weight… literally. Next up on the list of menu tips is paying attention to paper weight.

According to research in the International Journal of Hospitality Management, customers perceive higher quality service if you hand them a heavy menu. Specifically, the study suggests guests want nice, thick paper. (Geez, how demanding.)

To cut costs, sometimes bar and restaurant owners print menus on flimsy paper. Even in a plastic menu protector, lightweight paper doesn’t stand up to ink. It looks cheap even if guests can’t feel it.

So, what can you do if uber-expensive paper is out of your budget? The next tactic on this list of menu tips is the answer.

6) Bring Tablet Menus to the Table

Today’s guests have some menu tips to share. Over 79% of restaurant guests believe technology improves their dining experience. Feed their craving for digitally enhanced dining with tablet menus.

From fast casual to fine dining, thousands of restaurants are going digital with touchscreen ordering on tablet menus. Modern Restaurant Management just published a series of case studies on this innovative tech. They found that when guests used digital ordering, their average check size was 30% larger.

One of the main reasons for the check size increase is that advanced tablet menus include “suggestive selling.” For example, if a guest orders a salad, tablet menus can generate scripts such as “want to add chicken or $5”?

Tablet menus also eliminate menu printing costs (so you can forget those menu tips about heavy paper…a tablet weighs more anyways). You won’t need to run a reprint when you spot a typo or add a new item. In a few clicks, you can update your digital tablet menus.

If you opt for tablet menus, most of the menu tips listed here still apply. Skip the dollar signs, aim for pricing with the number 9…you get the picture!

7) Put Your Best Font Forward

Think that one of the best menu tips involves making items easy to read? Wrong. Multiple studies suggest that using fancier fonts on your menu is the way to go.

In fact, University of Michigan researchers found that the more intricate, fancy, and yes – hard to read – a font is, the more guests believe your restaurant took extra care to prepare their dish or drink. And they’re willing to pay extra for all the “hard work” that went into the menu item.

To see the exact fonts recommended by the study, plus over a dozen more menu tips, download the free whitepaper: How to Create a Menu That Sells: The Blueprint No Menu Engineer Wants You To See