Do stand-up menus sell more food?

08Dec09

While dining out last weekend, I noticed something that I’ve probably seen dozens of times before, but never really thought about. Namely, some restaurants purposely design their menus to stand up on the table, rather than laying them flat. In my case, this treatment was reserved for the dessert menu. The server brought it out with an easel, and left it facing us on the table.

I wonder how much math is behind this approach. Do stand-up menus only work for certain types of food and drink? Are they more effective for desserts versus appetizers and beverages? I have no idea. But even after recognizing that the dessert menu easel was probably a clever marketing trick — that I was getting the silent equivalent of a hard sell — I ordered a dessert anyway.

If I had to guess, the stand-up menu outperforms its regular counterpart — but only when used in moderation. Overdo it, and it loses its novelty and the ability to focus the customer on what you’re offering. If my theory is correct, then putting every menu on an easel or other standing display is no better than just laying them on the table the usual way. But pick one course to display in stand-up form and keep the other menus the same, and sales of the easel-bound items should increase considerably.



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