More and more time, energy and brain power are going into the design of restaurant menus, says a New York Times story on menu engineering. Building a good menu has become a whole separate branch of marketing.
First comes placement, where really expensive items are placed at the top of the menu to make the items below appear to be better value. Graphic design plays a part, too: Bigger type sizes and boxes point up high-profit-margin dishes.
Delicious language transforms ordinary items. We'll be seeing more "fluffy" and "succulent" foods, as well as "farm fresh eggs" on menus. (That's a pet peeve unless the eggs in question really were fetched from out yonder some time within the past week by an individual no more than three persons removed from the cook.) Perceptive Bitesters have already noted their least favorites among these superfluous and annoying menu words.
Dollar signs have been disappearing from menus for years, and the trend is expeected to continue. Prices have been rounded to eliminate fractions of a dollar, like prices ending in .75, and especially, .99, which is associated with dollar stores and discounted items.
Menus everywhere have begun including brand names -- the Chili's menu features "Shiner Bock" barbecue sauce on its babyback rib snackers, while some of Applebee's desserts are built around the Oreo brand.
A good menu is a pleasure to read, creating anticipation and making it hard to decide between all the good things, so the extra tinkering is usually welcome. But once in a while, the seams are showing, as with "farm fresh eggs." What menu innovations interest, tempt or annoy you?