Perception in Menus: How to Sway the Picky Eater

Consumer perception in food

In this blog post, I will be exploring how consumer perception plays a large role in the sale of goods and services, particularly in the restaurant industry. I will showcase three different restaurants in Tempe, AZ, and examine their menus to see what items I normally wouldn’t eat and what marketing elements might work to sway my mind.

Hunan Express: Chinese Cuisine

Hunan Express Consumer Perception

Hunan Express is my favorite Chinese restaurant in Tempe, and as such, the friendly owners have come to know me as a weekly visitor. Although I have a love for certain kinds of Chinese food, there are certain menu items that I am unwilling to try – mostly because I do not know what is in them. For example, the “Dan Dan Noodle” illustrates that the main ingredient of the meal is noodle, but there are no other descriptive details provided to paint a picture of the meal in my mind. I think I would be more willing to try this and other menu items if a small description with the meal’s ingredients was placed under each item name, thus making me a more informed consumer.

Macayo’s: Mexican Cuisine

Macayo's Consumer Perception

Macayo’s is a popular chain of Mexican restaurants located throughout the Phoenix Valley. I especially enjoy their cheese crisps and margaritas. When looking at their menu, I noticed that they had a new item bolded in red. When I saw “salmon” in the name, my first thought was to look over it as I HATE salmon and almost all other kinds of seafood. However, I saw that the item had a description beneath the title and so I decided to give it a look. The description is great in that it provides a lot of information about the ingredients of the meal to the consumer. On the other hand, the description does not provide a picture of the menu item next to its description, and so I immediately lost interest. I am sure that like many other consumers, I do not need visuals of common menu items (such as a cheese crisp or margarita in a Mexican restaurant) to know the basic elements of that meal. Yet, when I am looking at a new menu item, a picture might better explain what the meal will look and taste like than a description alone. Chances are that if more restaurants put images next to their new or unusual menu items, they will get more people to try their latest dishes.

RA Sushi

RA Sushi Consumer Perception

Whenever I am celebrating a special occasion, I choose RA Sushi to be my “victory” venue. In fact, I celebrated my 5-year anniversary there last year! The dark lighting and ambience makes RA a perfect place to enjoy a night out on the town. RA serves many items besides sushi, but they are known for their wide variety and combinations of sushi platters. Traditionally, I go for the sushi that doesn’t really taste like fish – ie, fried cream cheese rolls or spicy shrimp and crab rolls. Menu items are usually organized by the main type of meat or vegetable found in the sushi rolls, and so I try to avoid any “fishy” sections. In one section of the menu, I saw egg sushi rolls placed by “fishy” sushi rolls and this got me thinking. Although I have no idea what “sweet egg tamago” or “quail egg uzura” taste like, I probably would have never tried them – simply because they are next to the fish rolls in the menu. Restaurants should really focus on organizing their menus in such a way that instantly tells the consumer where to look based on their preferences. Otherwise, people may miss out on some phenomenal meals.

Interested in learning more about consumer behavior? Tune-in to my blog next week to catch up on some other current marketing trends!

Image: Evan


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Advertising & marketing aficionado | Movie enthusiast | Cat lover | Coffee infatuate | Passionate creator

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