The benefits of improving menu navigation, by Ann Elliott

I really love Sourced Market founded by Ben O’Brien in 2007. “Sourced Market came from Ben’s desire to create a store that offered the same quality of food you’d find in Borough Market with the convenience of a Tesco Express” Their philosophy, from the website, is brilliantly summarised in their own words “Our days are spent sourcing great food and drink and working closely with passionate producers to bring the very best selection to market”

Much as I love it though and want to buy there, I went yesterday and only spent about £4 on a shot of ginger and a bag of protein beetroot balls (nicer to eat than they sound). I wanted to buy more but I found a bit overwhelming to be honest. I was hot, had walked from Euston to Marylebone, was carrying the usual overstuffed laptop bag, needed to work, eat and drink and felt harassed. The usual. As I wondered aimlessly around not being drawn to any one thing or another, I thought of the correlation between my experience here and my experience of eating from many menus eg no clear navigation, journey or signing (or at least none I could see in my frazzled state)

I don’t know what I would do about that lack of navigation in a retail store as I am not a retail designer but I do know what to do on a menu. A client recently came to us and said his menu wasn’t working as well for him as he wanted it to in terms of profitability- but he didn’t know what to do. He didn’t want to change any of his items so we had to work with the dishes and pricing he gave us. We changed the layout, product groupings , design and copy. Our work resulted in a 20% increase in his margins from the same dishes. We are now repeating this work on his other brands

Of course, the key thing here is to format menus in a way which makes it easier and more enjoyable for the customer but also achieves the maximum margin for the operator. Crucially though, this process is not about driving spend per head – an objective which has to be approached with great caution. The last thing any customer wants is “bill shock”. We absolutely know that those customers who experience bill shock do not come back. They subconsciously blame the restaurant for making them buy more and it makes them feel awkward and embarrassed

When we approach navigational changes in a menu we look firstly at the brand and its positioning. With some menus, there is a disconnect between the menu and the brand which confuses customers. Getting this right is a crucial first step.

We also look at customer journey – It’s as important to consider the menu journey and the role this will play when it comes to influencing decision making. Whether the menu is delivered by the staff, already on the table, in the form of a placemat or on a tablet is often dictated by ops but can seriously impact on choice. Strategically owning this process and utilising it to achieve results is often overlooked but incredibly powerful.

We then work with the client to understand what menu items they most want to sell and why. These products need to be positioned where customers are most likely to notice them and buy them. We know from our research where these key spots are. Just putting the right products in the right place on a menu can generate immense improvements in sales and margin- and the reverse applies. Putting the wrong product in the wrong part of the menu, can dramatically damage sales.

We then group products and list them in the right order. We know the optimum products to list in a block and we know what order to list them in to generate optimum margins. Customers don’t want too many products to choose from (though McDonalds might argue with me) and they want very clear navigation when looking through the menu. Copy, font style, design and imagery all help with that navigation.

It’s a science. It delivers immediate and measurable results. And it works. If only I knew how to do it in retail.