Menu technology

When press baron Robert Maxwell (RIP) launched the first genuinely pan-European daily newspaper, The European, in 1989, he tested out pilot issues using techniques unknown until then. For some reason Marbella was a test site and I remember having my eye movements filmed as I scanned the pages. This groundbreaking technique enabled analysts to determine the level of interest a page or an article created for the reader. These days the practice is in general use and you mostly do not know you are being filmed. Shop windows and staged spectacles are fair game. So are restaurant menus.

Nowadays we should not perhaps be surprised to learn that there is a job speciality known as menu engineering. These experts advise restaurants how to design the most attractive menu that will improve profitability. A US study of 6,400 menus has demonstrated that, among other things, the dish a restaurant wants to promote most should be featured in the top right-hand corner, preferably inside a box outline. Sections should never have more than seven items listed, five is better, and three optimum. Flying in the face of common practice, the most expensive dishes are best shown first so the ones coming below will look reasonably priced. Obviously a heavy menu with a solid-looking binding creates the impression of quality, but this will go to waste if the typeface used is not the correct one. Stay away from pictures of the food, as studies show that this can cause disappointment when the dish arrives looking nothing like its photo. Adopting these guidelines has been shown to increase profits.

It is worth mentioning that a dish described as entrecote of grass-fed organic Angus beef from Mr Josh Reynold's farm, served with thick-cut local potatoes flavoured with thyme will sell more readily than Angus steak with fried potatoes.