201-741-8292 info@ledmenulight.com
Why Do I Need Reading Glasses for the Menu?

Why Do I Need Reading Glasses for the Menu?

Reprint from NextAvenue

Smaller font size and dim lighting make for a challenging night out

August 2, 2018

Recently, my husband Kevin and I went to dinner sans teens, a special event. We decided to forego our usual Tex-Mex spot in favor of a Spanish restaurant offering great tapas. This translates to a quieter, dimmer, adults-only atmosphere conducive to lingering over our meal, sharing a glass of wine, and not issuing please-chew-with-your-mouth-closed reminders.

With Spanish murals and soft guitar music as our romantic backdrop, we sat at our table, picked up our menus, and tried to focus on the 6-point-font-sized list of appetizers.

We perused the menu for a few minutes before one of us (probably me) finally said, “I can’t see a darn thing. Why do they have to make the type so small?”

I held the menu far enough away to be in another ZIP code while Kevin adopted his best Robert De Niro face as he tried to discern what Camarones al ajillo means. “Is this in Spanish . . . or can we just not see . . . or both?” he asked.

Let There Be Light

After struggling for a few more minutes, we cast pride aside, and Kevin reached for his reading glasses while I whisked out my credit-card size magnifier that fits in my wallet. (Good God, do I own a credit-card size magnifier?)

I leaned in toward the votive candle for an extra 2 watts hoping not to catch the menu on fire, although the extra light from the flames would have helped. Meanwhile, Kevin broke out his iPhone flashlight app. With the added luminosity and 2x magnification, we were ready to order.

LED Menu Light


LED Menu Light manufactures and sells LED illuminated Menu Covers, Boards, and Check Presenters
All our LED menus are made with soft white LED light for easy reading, just like the Kindle and E-Readers. This is perfect for customers who have a hard time reading tiny types on menus in dimly lit restaurants.

WEBSITE:  https://ledmenulight.com

Contact: Marvin Barenbaum, 201-741-8292

The Psychology of Menu Design

The Psychology of Menu Design

The Psychology of Menu DesignThe Psychology of Menu Design: Reinvent Your ‘Silent Salesperson’ to Increase Check Averages

REPRINT: https://www.rrgconsulting.com/the-psychology-of-menu-design-reinvent-your-silent-salesperson-to-increase-check-averages-and-guest-loyalty.html

By Dave Pavesic, Ph.D., FMP

The menu is the most important internal marketing and sales tool a restaurant has to market its food and beverage to customers. It is the only piece of printed advertising that you are virtually 100 percent sure will be read by the guest. Once placed in the guest’s hand, it can directly influence what they will order and how much they will spend. Menu design directly influences sales revenue. Management is constantly forecasting business volume to estimate how much to buy, keep in inventory, and prepare. A properly designed menu makes these kinds of decisions easier and more accurate.

A well-designed menu can educate and entertain the customer as well as be a communication, cost control, and marketing tool for your restaurant. The menu is designed to help the guest decide what to order. When you strategically place menu items on the menu, you will sell more of them than if you placed them randomly.

Well-designed menus market the food the restaurant prepares best and wants to sell by making those items stand out from the others. This article will discuss menu design techniques to help you increase the effectiveness of your “silent salesperson” to boost check averages and guest loyalty.

Your Restaurant’s Business Card

The menu design must be congruent with the concept and image of the restaurant and effectively communicate the overall dining experience to the guest. Think of your menu as your restaurant business card. It introduces the customer to your restaurant, and its design should complement the decor, service, food quality, and price range of the restaurant. The menu design should incorporate the colors and graphics that the customer sees from the table. A properly designed menu can help any restaurant – whether it be a fine-dining, casual-theme, fast-casual concept, or fast-food – achieve its sales goals, keep its costs in line, increase its speed of preparation and service, and return a desired average check. This does not happen by accident; it must be planned during the design of the menu or menu boards.

Too often, menus are not given the time and budget that such an important marketing tool deserves. Many of the popular and high-volume dinner houses have menus that, if their logo and name were removed, the image created in your mind from the menu would be severely understated to the extent that you might not even consider going there to eat. One of the services hotel concierge services provided to out-of-town visitors is making recommendations and reservations at local restaurants. They often display menus for the benefit of visitors, who make dining decisions solely on the basis of the menu. 

The same care, time, and effort should be given to the task of menu design and production as is given to the design and decor of the dining room and kitchen. The menu content is the product of the chef and owner, who have, in many instances, spared no expense in the dining room decor and the kitchen equipment. They are highly respected professionals in the restaurant community, and yet their menu design gives the impression that they ran out of money or that the menu design was just an afterthought. Considering how much the restaurant depends on the menu, it is astonishing that many menus do not reflect the level of professionalism and knowledge of the owners, chefs, and managers.

More and more restaurant companies have realized and understood the importance of proper menu design on check averages. Several years ago, Houlihan‘s revamped its menu with the goal of increasing check averages. The menu was designed to lead the customer from the specialty drinks on the cover to appetizers on the first page to the complete dinners inside. Its old menu, by contrast, lumped all types of items next to one another on the same large fold-out page. This, it was felt, might have somewhat deflected dinner sales by making it easy for the customer to select only an appetizer.

Menu Psychology

The Wall Street Journal article told of restaurants that designed their menus to highlight the most profitable offerings. These menu items were also hyped by servers when asked to recommend a dish by a guest. Techniques such as highlighting items have been used for years in the retail sector. Their store window, counter, and mannequin displays have been used to promote clothing and merchandise. They found that if a customer notices the merchandise, it greatly increases the likelihood that they will make a purchase. If they never noticed the merchandise, there is zero possibility of purchase. Adapting this merchandizing theory to menu design, restaurant operators can boost sales of high-profit/low-cost items by highlighting them on their menus. This is called “menu design psychology” or “menu psychology.” We are essentially saying that the design of the menu can have a subtle effect on what customers will eventually order. The menu is to a restaurant what the merchandise display is to a major department store. You want the customer to see all the things you have for sale in the hope that they see something they like and ultimately make a purchase.

The concept of menu psychology was introduced to the industry in the writings of the late Albin Seaberg in his book, “Menu Design,” published in 1971. He pointed out the importance of designing a menu in such a way that you get the customer’s attention and raise the odds that they will select certain items more than others. Too often, the menu design was left to the printer or graphics specialist without any input from the restaurant manager. Knowledge of these “menu psychology” techniques will greatly improve the design of any menu.

109 Seconds and Counting

Several years ago, Gallup reported that most customers would spend an average of 109 seconds reading a menu. This is the time limit you have to get your message to them. The time it takes to read a menu and make a decision needs to be addressed in your menu design and presentation.

Over the years, restaurants like Bennigan’s, TGI Friday’s, and The Cheesecake Factory have been known for their multipage menus and extensive listings of menu items. If it takes longer to make a purchase decision, it will lengthen your table turnover times, especially with first-time guests. With the information on menu item sales being quickly and easily assembled through point-of-sale computers, the number of selections and pages have been greatly reduced because they found that 60 percent to 70 percent of their sales came from fewer than 18-24 menu items. It did not make sense to have 50-100 different choices. They shortened the order-taking time, but they also reduced inventory and purchases.

Considering the importance of the menu sales mix in the smooth and efficient operation of the restaurant, it behooves all restaurant operators to learn the various techniques of menu design so they can be incorporated into their next menu design. A properly designed menu can direct the attention of the diner to specific items and increase the likelihood that those items will be ordered. These items should be the highest gross profit and lowest food costs and help achieve the average check needed to return the desired sales. In addition, the degree of preparation difficulty should be factored into your menu evaluation. If an item cannot be prepared in 10-12 minutes or it requires multiple steps and needs to be moved between more than two stations or employees before it gets to the pickup window, it may not be one of the items you want to display on your menu prominently. This being said, while menu design and placement of items on the menu can influence the customers’ decision, it will not influence customers to purchase items that they do not want. Menu design can help increase the odds of an item’s selection.

Think how much easier it would be to forecast use levels of perishable ingredients, production quantities, and scheduling help when you can forecast to within 1 percent to 3 percent of what you will be selling during any given meal period. If you can predict the number of customers that will enter your restaurant, you can quantify your needs for inventory, production, and staffing.

Don’t Leave Guest Preference to Chance.

The following statement may at first sound contradictory to what has been stated, but here goes: Any menu, any design, and any format will produce a predictable sales mix if put in service every day for a prolonged period. In other words, regardless of the menu design, the popularity of particular menu items will evolve, so management will be able to forecast customer preferences and thereby be able to plan purchases and preparation quantities according to the existing sales pattern. Here is the key point we want to make: If such a sales pattern occurs without any rhyme or reason to the design of the menu, think of the possibilities if the menu were designed to promote the items the restaurant wanted to sell more than any other. Instead of leaving it entirely to a random selection, you can actually “direct” the customers’ attention to those items you want to sell and are geared up to sell.

How do you turn your menu into a cost control, marketing, and communication tool? There are certain “practices” that, when incorporated into the graphic design and layout of a menu, can actually “influence” the menu selections of the guests. These practices and techniques are not subliminal and do not in any way force or trick the customer into ordering something they do not want any more than looking at a television commercial or newspaper advertisement influences the purchase decision. However, like a television commercial or newspaper advertisement, menu design can put an idea into the head of the consumer, thereby increasing the likelihood that they will at least consider the choice when a purchase is made. If they had never seen the ad, it would never have occurred to them even to consider its purchase.

The Power of Print

The techniques of menu psychology are most applicable to the printed menu. (However, others can be employed with verbal menus, i.e., menus delivered orally by the server. In some restaurants, this might just include specials. In very upscale establishments, this might include the entire menu. But this article is devoted to only the printed menu.) What are the techniques employed in the design and production of a menu? Some of the techniques involve such elements as the print style and size, the paper and ink color, the texture and finish of the paper, graphic design, artwork, and illustrations. Even the placement of items on a page or with a list is done for specific reasons. Actually, menu psychology techniques can be anything that is used to direct the reader’s attention to certain parts of the menu to increase the likelihood that those items will be remembered. They are more likely to be ordered than unnoticed or forgotten items if they are noticed and remembered.

In a hospitality management student study at Florida State University of a Bennigan’s menu from the early ’80s, more than three-fourths of all menu items sold were either snacks or appetizers. The menu at the time contained 14 pages, and the dinner entrees were listed on the last two pages. The customers didn’t bother to read past the first four or five pages, and the menu length and design significantly contributed to the poor dinner entrees sales in the overall menu sales mix.

You can improve your sales without changing any menu item or price. All you have to do is reposition the items and employ menu psychology techniques on your menu. There are several different menu formats, and each has a different area of sales concentration. The items you put in the area of sales concentration should be selected with care and purpose. They should be items that you want to feature and do better than the competition. This is where you want to list your house specialties and signature items.

In addition to the format, the menu items are typically grouped into menu categories. The number of names used for the various menu categories will be greatly influenced by the type of restaurant, the price range, and the number of menu offerings. For example, the typical categories for a restaurant featuring steak will be different from that featuring seafood or ethnic cuisine, such as Italian or Mexican. The industry standard is to put menu items into categories and in the order in which the items are typically eaten. Restaurants with higher check averages typically have more menu categories than those with lower check averages.



There are three basic types of menu page and fold formats you can use on a menu. First is the single-page format in which the entire menu is contained on a single page or card. The area of sales concentration is in the top half of the page. Then there is the most common format of the two-page/single-fold menus. Menu size and shape will vary considerably. The National Restaurant Association conducts a menu contest every year during its annual convention in Chicago and has found that the most common sized menu was 9 inches by 12 inches. This is the result of no other reason than to accommodate the standard paper size of 8.5 inches by 11 inches.

The graphic “Eye Movement Pattern” (see picture below) shows the typical eye movement over a three-panel, two-fold menu. The pattern of eye movement is not fixed and can be altered and directed by “eye magnets.” Eye magnets are little graphic techniques that will attract the eye and guest’s attention. Some of the best examples are graphic boxes around menu items, the use of a dot matrix screen of color as a background, using a larger or bolder type font, and incorporating an illustration, or even a photograph to “draw” the eye. The areas of emphasis are used to list the items you want to promote the most.

There are three basic types of menu page and fold formats you can use on a menu.Gaze motion patterns will vary according to the page format, graphics, layout, and a number of folds in the menu. There is a tendency to list items in the order in which they are consumed. This puts cocktails and appetizers first and desserts and dessert beverages last. The greatest amount of space on the menu is given to entrees, which are the highest-priced items on the menu. In most restaurants, close to 100 percent of the customers will order an entire, but only a small percentage will order appetizers and desserts. This begs the question that perhaps we should relinquish some of that prime menu space that up to now has been reserved for entries and in their place put a la carte appetizers, side orders, and desserts. This emphasis can only increase the likelihood of those items being selected in addition to an entree.

Restaurants with static menus that combine both lunch and dinner items can be quite extensive. Their menus tend to be fairly large and become crowded and use a type font that’s too small. A crowded menu that is difficult to read is not an effective merchandising tool. It is recommended that multiple menus be employed to keep the size manageable if the menu approaches 12 inches by 18 inches in size. Separate drink, wine, dessert, and children’s menus may be more practical and do a better merchandising job than an oversized and crowded menu. Especially with desserts, a separate menu that is handed to the guest is a more effective sales piece than having them recall what was on the original menu or having the server describe the choices verbally. Table tents and menu boards can be used to merchandise daily specials when menu clip ons add to the clutter and compete with the regular menu items.

Sometimes Bigger Isn’t Better.

In addition, oversized menus are difficult to maneuver in tight quarters. Guests have knocked over wine glasses with the menu, and candles have scorched menus. Customers have commented that the menus were obstructing their view of their dining partner and were even too large to be placed on the table. The more extensive the listings of menu items, the larger the menu dimensions and the more space that is needed to contain the listings and descriptive copy.



If you have a three-panel menu with interchangeable pages, try swapping them at lunch and dinner for a month and check your menu sales mix for any changes. The odds are that whatever is in the center panel will sell more than if it were on the back cover. This is also a way to increase your check average at night by moving the lower-priced sandwiches and salads to the back cover, where they are less likely to be noticed and therefore ordered.

Menu design psychology also uses several visual element techniques to increase the effectiveness of the menu as a marketing, communication, and cost control tool. The first visual element is the font size and style. Words, numbers, or graphic symbols can be increased in size to attract the reader’s eye or decreased in size to de-emphasize attention to a particular item. It follows that selectively increasing the type size and style of some menu items is a technique that will draw the customer’s eye and therefore their attention. It is this attention that increases the odds that the customer will consider ordering that item more than if they had never noticed it at all.

Different styles of type fonts can be used as “eye magnets.” This technique is most effective when the entire menu is limited to three different font styles. When four or more different font styles are used, the drawing power of the font becomes diluted and the eye never rests in any one area. Again, the intent is to bring attention to some menu items or areas of the menu. Improper placement or use of these techniques can be counterproductive and take attention away from the menu sections or items the operator wishes to emphasize.

The second technique is accomplished by increasing the brightness or color (shading) of visual elements to attract attention and establish a menu grouping. In printing jargon, this is referred to as dot-matrix screening. The brightness of color can be increased, such as changing from gray to black or from a light pink to a dark red through a screen of tiny dots placed in various densities that produces a specified percentage of color. The use of color in the font, graphics, and borders can also be used to attract attention. The change from a light type to a bold type can also increase awareness and can actually direct the eye along a prescribed path. Thus, color and brightness can be used along with font size and style to direct the reader to certain parts or sections of the menu.

Another way to direct a guest’s attention to a certain part or section of the printed menu can be accomplished by placing the elements in a confined area or space on the menu. The use of borders to “frame” a menu item or group of menu items is an example of this menu psychology technique. An example would be the appetizer section of a menu that is set off by a box border or graphic design. The grouping of all the appetizers within a designated area encourages reading them as a unit. Adding an extra line space (leading) between menu items and putting less space between the title or name of the menu item and its descriptive copy clearly conveys that the description is for the preceding item.

In much the same way that spacing tends to group visual information, the use of similar elements such as brightness, color, size, or shape encourages elements to be seen together. Thus, switching from regular to bold type, changing fonts, or introducing a different color of type signals to the reader that they are moving from one section to another, e.g., appetizers to salads.

While all these elements can be used to guide the customer’s eye around the menu to the items that provide the best overall return, the entire menu must remain uncluttered and easy to read. If for example, appetizers are contained within a rectangular border, do not use a circle or square around another appetizer and place it adjacent to the others. A different shape suggests a different menu category, e.g., side dishes or salads.

The menu design psychology techniques described in this article are useful tools to the graphic designer in preparing a menu. In the March 2005 issue, we will discuss how the menu paper, its weight, texture, finish and color contribute to the menu design, the average check and gross profit return.

For now, the key point is to put a great deal of energy and thought into the design and psychology of your menu. Your efforts and planning will be returned many times over.

This article is reprinted from Restaurant Startup & Growth Magazine

Common Menu Mistakes

Inadequate management commitment. Not treating the menu design decision with the same due diligence as any major capital investment decision is setting yourself up for failure. So is leaving the menu layout and design up to your printer and not working with a graphic designer to accentuate the menu items you want to feature.

Hard to read. Examples include poor readability because of font size, paper color, and font style; crowded menu pages with elements too numerous and font type too small; and printing on dark paper with dark ink making readability difficult under low-light conditions.

Overemphasizing prices. When you align prices in a column down the page, guests can summarily discount items based on price alone.

Monotonous design. Using the same graphic design on all menu items so nothing stands out says, “blah.”

Poor salesmanship. Not emphasizing the items the restaurant wants to sell through graphics, fonts, color, or illustrations reduces your influence on what items will move.

Poor use of space. This includes not using the front and back cover for information about the restaurant, e.g., hours, services, history, address, etc. I have more than 1,000 menus in my library, and about one-fourth of them do not have any identifying information. Over the years, I have forgotten where some of them came from, and the menu does not contain any information. Since people take menus from restaurants as souvenirs, they should contain what is referred to as “institutional information.” To not include it would be like having custom matches without your restaurant’s name on them.

Incongruent. This includes failing to design the menu to fit the decor and personality of the restaurant. Your menu is your primary communication tool, and it should be designed in a way that if a customer who had never heard of your restaurant were handed a copy of your menu, they would be able to visualize your decor, type of food, price range and whether you were casual or upscale dining.

Too big. The size of the menu needs to take into account the size of the table, the place setting, and the table appointments. Oversized menus can be awkward to hold and handle while sipping a martini and trying to have a conversation with your dinner companions.

Most people do not

Most people do not “read” a menu from page to page. Instead, they “scan” the menu with their eyes. Therefore, if you want to feature specific menu items, they need to be placed where the eye goes first. Do not leave this to chance. The use of “eye magnets” helps direct the gaze of the reader to that particular section. The eye can be drawn by creating a particular section of the menu differently from the rest. Perhaps you put a box around your appetizers or use a larger or different color type font to make a menu description stand out from the rest. About the Primacy and Recency Theory

Dot-matrix background screens can also be effective and use icons or symbols to the left of the menu description. They have been used to designate “Heart-healthy,” “low carbohydrate,” or “Spicy Hot” items. However, use these techniques sparingly because if you overuse them, you diminish the ability to direct attention to specific items.





Dr. David Pavesic is a former restaurateur and retired professor at the Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality at Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA.




“LED Menus make reading your menu easy, even in the darkest settings!”
 No more cellphone searchlights turning on to read your menus, killing your ambiance.
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Why restaurants dim the lights

Why restaurants dim the lights

The reason why restaurants dim the lights.

The Franklin News Post – read the original article


The goal here is always to shine the light of knowledge for our readers.

It is a mission not to be taken lightly.

Allow us to illuminate:

Q: Why are expensive restaurants often dimly lit?

Zach Davis, Rocky Mount

A: There has been extensive study and thought spent on this tasty topic.

Start with thoughts offered at the website of the National Restaurant Association, which bills itself as “the largest foodservice trade association in the world.”

“Lighting can set the mood in your restaurant, creating a soothing ambiance that encourages customers to linger or a vibrant atmosphere that helps turn tables,” the advice reads.

Bright and subdued lighting serve different functions.

For instance, at fast-food restaurants, the goal is volume sales. The more customers served in the shortest amount of time, the better.

At so-called “fine dining” establishments, the idea is to keep the customers in their seats, presumably to continue ordering more high-dollar food and drink.

Low lights are also believed to encourage romance.

LED Menu Light - www.ledmenulight.comThis brings us to another bright idea.

Consider the wafting aroma of sour cream-cappuccino brownies just emerging from the oven at the neighborhood bakery or the heavenly scents of Chanel No. 5 at the beauty counter in the mall.

Call it “sensory marketing,” a term employed by University of South Florida associate professor of marketing Dipayan Biswas.

“Anything that appeals to our senses is more impactful in sort of influencing our behavior, our choices, and often, it happens at a very subconscious level, so we are not even aware of that,” he said in Mark Schreiner’s 2012 piece at the USF Public Media site.

The professor went on to explain the differences in goals between fast food and a gourmet eatery.

“Usually, more expensive restaurants have more dimly lit environments than, let’s say, a fast food, low-priced restaurant,” Biswas said. “So we would often associate a dim light with something being more expensive, fancier.”

No wonder that entree is priced in such frightful fashion. High-end restaurants can spend a bundle just trying to strike the proper mood.

“Fine-dining restaurants often have more ‘layers’ of light, which include downlights, accent lights, sconces, chandeliers, and cove lights,” the restaurant association article said.

“The more layers within a space, the more dramatic,” the article quoted Anne Kustner Haser of Anne Kustner Lighting Design in Evanston, Illinois, as saying.

To develop the proper ambiance, music (or lack of), artwork, and lighting work in concert.

Studies have shown that different types of lighting can have an impact on the way people perceive their food, according to the marketing professor.

For instance, common sense tells us food that looks good usually tastes better than more pedestrian-appearing fare.

There’s more to it than that, according to one study by the USF professor. Asked to guess the number of calories in a dish, customers in better-lit rooms typically suppose a lower number of calories for the food served.

“So that again provides sort of evidence that our brain is wired in a way where the taste thing is not just formed from the tongue, it plays just a small role, the visual and the smell cues play a big, big role,” he said.

To bolster that point, the scholar found in one of his examinations that most subjects blindfolded with noses plugged could not tell the difference between cola and lemon-lime soda in taste tests.

It’s not just the appearance of food that depends on the right luminosity. Restauranteurs are urged to provide warm, eye-level lighting near bathroom mirrors.

“You want people to look their best, so they’ll stay longer and buy more,” the Illinois lighting expert said.

A 2016 Cornell University study for which Biswas was the lead author found that customers in dimly lit establishments tended to order dishes that were 39 percent more calorie-filled.

On the other hand, in well-lit eateries, diners are 16 percent to 24 percent more likely to make healthier eating choices.

“Process evidence suggests that this phenomenon occurs because ambient light luminance influences mental alertness, which in turn influences food choices,” the paper said.

Inadequate lighting does have certain merits, one being that diners do take their time and eat more slowly.

On the whole, though, most customers are irritated by dingy viewing, especially when it comes to menu reading and restroom finding.

Specialists recommend indirect light fixtures along the perimeters of rooms and small table lamps or candles to help alleviate the issue.

They better hope those measures work. That fine dining crowd can be ruthless.

According to a June 2015 Washington Post food blog post, Tom Sietsema wrote about a lunchtime episode at district steakhouse Mastro’s during which he requested more light to examine writings about the day’s fare.

Wait staff delivered an apparently lame lamp to the table.

The loathing for which this service was greeted could not be kept in the dark.

“The supposed fix glowed with the force of a single birthday candle.”

Bring Back Menus! I am sick of the QR codes

Bring Back Menus! I am sick of the QR codes

I am sick of the QR codes for Menus

Slate – Read original article


Before the pandemic, I’d shudder at the sight of a restaurant table full of people all staring at their phones. I was always happy not to be them or be sitting with them. I always kept the lively conversation flowing at my table. I had good boundaries between my on- and offline lives. But now, restaurants around the world have nonconsensually turned us all into the people I used to judge. I hate it. And it’s time for us to go back.

It all started when outdoor dining resumed after initial waves of mandated closures last spring. Wary of wayward coronaviruses lingering on physical menus, restaurants taped QR codes to their tables and outsourced the act of menu delivery to the diner and her smartphone. This might have made sense when it still seemed possible that the coronavirus was largely spreading through surface transmission.

LED Menu Light - www.ledmenulight.comBut we now know that the risk of infection via a contaminated surface is low. In tons of communities across the U.S., vaccination rates are high, and COVID-19 case rates are low. People are attending indoor concerts, grinding at dance clubs, and heading back to the office. And yet, even as we eat and slobber and sneeze in restaurants seated at full capacity, in many of those establishments, we’re still obliged to use our own smartphones to figure out what we want to eat.

Why? Why should we be scared to go back to touching a communal piece of paper when we’re already breathing one another’s theoretically more dangerous air?

The obvious pitfalls of the QR code menu were well worth the aggravation as a temporary public health measure, and I truly feel for restaurant owners and workers who’ve been forced to redesign their businesses every few months in response to changing municipal regulations and public health findings.

But the QR code’s continued ubiquity well into the era of the low surface transmission consensus and the full reopening of public spaces has me worried that digital-only menus will be one pandemic modification that becomes a permanent element of public life. Maybe restaurant owners will welcome the demise of physical menus as a way to eliminate one small but constant expense.

Maybe their employees will relish their newfound freedom from the hassle of reprinting menus every time there’s a new seasonal entree on offer. Maybe it will free servers from patrons who always seem to want to order the one dish that’s out of stock. (It can be easily deleted from a digital menu as soon as it runs out.)

Maybe diners who already love scrolling on their phones at restaurants will be more than happy to check out the menu there, too. Other customers may be content to touch one less surface that might be stained with food or invisibly smeared with another person’s snot.

Not I! I’m tired of having to navigate a new digital platform every time I eat out. I despise spending the first 10 minutes of a social engagement on my phone. I never again want to encounter, as I did last week, a QR code that leads to a website where each of the seven menu pages is a separate PDF that must be clicked, zoomed in on, and closed before moving on to the next.

If you think I’m being overdramatic, let me ask you this: Have you gone to a restaurant with your boomer parents during the pandemic? If not, have you ever had to teach your boomer parents how to set up a Roku or connect their printer to Bluetooth? Same tedious, excruciating, relationship-straining thing.

One of my family members is in his late 70s, loves dining out, and only owns a flip phone with no internet connectivity. He’s already excluded from much of our increasingly digital society; before the pandemic, the American restaurant was one of the few places left where he was entirely comfortable with the mores and knew exactly what was expected of him when he walked through the door. Now, he never knows what to anticipate or what he’ll be asked to do when he goes out for lunch.

Default-digital menus are alienating for other kinds of customers, too. Critics have rightly noted that the cashless trend in food and retail is prohibitive for customers who don’t have bank accounts.

Likewise, for a customer who doesn’t have a smartphone or robust data plan—including about one-quarter of adults with household incomes below $30,000 per year—a QR code menu means having to ask for special accommodations she never used to need. Ditto foreign travelers, whose smartphones may not work on U.S. soil. QR codes also open the door for easily executed scams, malware, and digital surveillance.

There is no good reason to add an exclusionary, risky, socially deadening digital step to an analog system that was working just fine before the pandemic hit.

Some restaurants have taken it even further, digitizing not just the menu but the entire dining experience. Two months ago, I ate outdoors at a Basque restaurant that used to have fantastic service on its outdoor patio. This time, it required diners to page through an extensive website that held its menu options.

We had to place food and drink orders on an online platform and punch in our credit card information on our tiny phone keyboards with our big, dumb fingers. Then, we had to wait for a notification on our phones to tell us our drinks were ready to pick up indoors. When we decided to order a second bottle of cider midway through the meal, we had to place a whole new order online. It felt more like ordering takeout or shopping on Amazon than dining out.

It is possible that I socialize in some kind of Luddite bubble, but I’ve only ever heard from one person who loves the new QR code restaurant experience. My colleague, a single woman in her 30s in D.C., said she likes the restaurants that now require customers to view the menu, order, and pay via QR code, fully eliminating most of a server’s responsibilities.

(This mode of operation may make sense for restaurants that have faced staffing shortages since reopening. I will happily pay higher prices at an adequately staffed restaurant that pays a living wage.) Since each diner orders and pays on her own, my colleague said, it’s made it easier to dine with groups of friends who might have otherwise struggled with splitting a check, and it’s preempted awkward conversations with guys on dates about who’s getting the bill.

I suppose I can see where she’s coming from. During a bad date or a social interaction that’s reached its natural end, the wait to receive and pay the check can feel interminable. But people don’t visit sit-down restaurants because they want a meal marked by extreme convenience and speed. As several restaurant workers have told me during the pandemic, diners come to restaurants for hospitality.

For me, the pleasure of poring over a physical menu is so integral to the experience of dining out that I made my friends mimic it during an early-pandemic dinner over Zoom. We’ve all just had the most isolated, screen-mediated year of our lives. If there’s an opportunity for us to make a familiar social interaction more tangible and human, and less coldly transactional, let’s take it.

Restaurants are so dark these days it’s impossible to even read the menu

Restaurants are so dark these days it’s impossible to even read the menu

REPRINT: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/restaurant-in-search-of-light-and-i-dont-mean-something-to-eat/

Get a group of frequent restaurant-goers together, and soon enough, their note-sharing will reveal the small things that can diminish an otherwise nice experience. Are we talking #FirstWorldproblems here? Absolutely. Does that stop us from venting? Absolutely not.

The upside to being canceled at lunch? The chance to catch up on my reading. So off I went to Mastro’s — yet another new D.C. steakhouse in a city stocked with them — carrying several pounds of newspapers that I hoped to shed by the time I asked for the check.

I never made it past a headline.

While Mastro’s has much to recommend it — prime beef, top-shelf drinks, live music seven nights a week — proper illumination is not on the menu. It is a dark room with darker draperies blocking all but a sliver of natural light, the posh steakhouse is by turns Las Vegas, where the casinos are lighted to make you forget what time it is, and Luray Caverns hold the electricity. When I expressed concern to my waiter, a relative beacon thanks to his white jacket, he brought me a table lamp, typically an evening amenity. The supposed fix glowed with the force of a single birthday candle.



Kasy Allen
Reprint – http://blog.etundra.com/in-the-restaurant/dim-restaurant-lighting/

As we sat at West Flanders Brewing Company enjoying some of their delicious brews for happy hour, the lights suddenly went dim.  At first, it was hard to focus on small things, like the menu and details on people’s faces, especially distant ones.  This wasn’t anything new to any of us – restaurants dim the lights all the time – but as we struggled to regain focus, we began discussing the potential harm this could do to restaurant profits and how the customers actually feel about it.

What the Studies Say

When you consider that sit down restaurants are quite the opposite of fast-food joints when it comes to music and lighting, there’s definitely a science behind the mood being set and how that mood relates to food; however, finding the studies to say that there is a definite science is somewhat limited.  One study that was done in 2012 by Cornell University found that lighting and music do indeed affect how we eat food, but not how you might expect.

By taking a well-known fast-food establishment and making two different versions – one with brightly lit lights and upbeat music, and the second with soft lighting and smooth jazz – the researchers were able to offer the same food, but in two different environments.  What they found was that people actually ate less when they were in a more relaxed atmosphere. They may take their time to enjoy their food and drinks, but they don’t order any more food than they would at a fast-food restaurant.  The researchers

(like many of us) expected the exact opposite – they expected people to eat more because, with dimmer lighting and softer music, people tend to linger longer.

In hindsight, I should have named this section “What the Study Says,” but that just doesn’t sound as important, now does it?

What Does This Mean For You?

Dimming the lights may cause people to eat less, but if your guests are health-conscious, this is a great way to help them cut calories; in fact, the study showed that consumers ate 18% fewer calories when the mood was set to be more relaxing.

If you’re in the business of strictly gaining profit instead of showing off your culinary talent as well, then fast-food-style settings may be the place for you.  But like most chefs, when it comes to their food they’re passionate about the tastes, the blends, the colors, the presentation, etc.  In a fast-food environment, you would absolutely be hindering all of your efforts towards making that culinary experience the one you want.

What the People Say

Of course, with plenty of places to vent online, there are numerous discussions across the web of people debating the reasons for dim lighting in a restaurant.  The majority seemed to agree that dim lighting was to set the mood – make the dining experience more comfortable.  They felt that it helped to make people focus on what’s in front of them, including the food and their dining companions.

Oddly enough, they also felt that it was almost like a conspiracy theory to help the restaurant gain more profits because people would eat/order more food (exactly opposite of what the study found).  They also blamed dim lighting on the reason behind coyote ugly – the dim lighting hides blemishes and makes people look more attractive… I knew there was more to this coyote ugly thing than just alcoholic beverages.

The bad news is that many people were complaining that too dim of lights made it hard to read the menu and see the food on the plate.  They also felt that the lower light setting helped to hide bad food: presentation and taste.  And of course, the dim lighting does what it does to my husband every time he watches a movie, makes them sleepy.

What Does This Mean For You?

Well, if your restaurant is trying to make a profit off of dim lights, the people are on to you.  They’re also done with biting off their arms because of bad dates they wake up next to.

But you can do something to help them know there is no conspiracy theory.  It can be as easy as adding candlelight to the table so it’s easier to see the menu and the food.  You can also invest in some awesome LED-lit menus that definitely add some light to the table.

Should There Be Another Study?

The LED-lit menus got me thinking – would people order more food if they could see what was on the menu?  Maybe those people in the study actually ordered less because they couldn’t see. Hmm, looks like another study possibility.

LED Menus are available for sale at LED Menu Light.