We’ve all heard the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but does that apply to menu design? Studies show that including a picture with a menu item can boost that item’s sales, but does that mean every restaurant should lean on imagery to sell their food over text descriptions?
Ultimately, it depends on the restaurant. There isn’t one single standard for the industry. Many fast-food restaurants choose to display a picture with every food option. However, upscale, expensive restaurants usually forgo photos on their menu entirely. Why is that?
So, in deciding whether or not your menu should have photos, you should look at the following pros and cons and assess the overall atmosphere you’re trying to create at your restaurant.
The Pros of Adding Photos to Your Menu
Catching Your Customers’ Attention
Words will never be able to replicate the feeling associated with looking at a mouth-watering picture of your favorite food. This visual stimulation and connection with a food item on a menu makes us drool while also getting us excited about the food we’re about to eat. In the same vein, a well-written description can dance this line and entice customers, but it can’t replace the stimulation and connection a picture produces.
Having your food displayed in all its glory throughout your menu will also form an excellent first impression, starting your connection with your customers the second they see your menu. When a picture of food is taken correctly, it excites customers, making them eager to try the delicious-looking food.
It Makes the Customer’s Choice Easier
Menus are full of options, and it can be hard for customers to decide between menu items. Using pictures can help to make that decision easier. When customers see a picture of something, they’re more likely to experience that mouth-watering feeling of connection. Therefore, they’ll be more likely to choose a menu item that’s accompanied by a photograph, as it elicits further feelings of hunger and stimulation.
These photos give customers more information, showing them precisely what they will get if they choose to order that particular dish. Without a picture, it’s unknown, and why would they want to choose an unknown over something that they can visualize?
The Ability to Highlight Sales and Promotions
When customers are more attracted to menu items with imagery attached, you can use this to your advantage. Highlight menu items that you want to sell more of, or add images of upgraded dishes. Instead of showing a plain salad, show a salad that’s been upgraded with chicken. By using image placement to your advantage, you can increase the sales of specific items.
Another great example is a dish that you have to sell a certain amount of, like fresh-caught fish. To ensure that the dish gets enough attention to keep it on the menu, you would want to add a photo to encourage customers to order it.
The Cons of Adding Photos to Your Menu
Professional Quality Food Photography is Challenging
If you aren’t a professional photographer, you may have a hard time capturing the perfect image for your menu. Without a professional photographer and a food stylist, keeping your menu free from pictures might be the right move.
When your menu features displeasing photos of your food, you lower your customers’ expectations. Offering a menu with poor-quality pictures is bad for business.
Customers will often preview a menu online before heading to the restaurant. For a menu that’s beautifully designed with great pictures, they’ll be eager to eat at your restaurant. However, if they see that the menu is poorly designed and has unappealing food photos, they may be dissuaded.
You Might Sacrifice Good Design
Designing a menu with images presents more challenges than creating a text-only menu. With images, they need to be adequately formatted and integrated well with the text to look cohesive.
In the modern era, a poorly designed or formatted menu can and will prompt someone to click away from your website. When searching for a restaurant, small things like poor design or bad image quality quickly turn people away. There are so many options out there, and why would they want to eat somewhere that doesn’t have an appetizing menu?
Megan Prevost is a marketing content writer for MustHaveMenus. She has her BFA in Creative Writing for Entertainment and is passionate about food, entertainment, and cats. Her work has been published in The Daily Fandom and FanSided.