May 11

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How to increase sales with better menu descriptions

By Ian Johnstone

May 11, 2020


If you want your product training to be more effective then stop training staff to describe menu items using colourful and descriptive language that doesn't appeal or connect with customers.

How we train employees to describe menu items is wrong. Often we encourage them to use colourful and even specific descriptions that are subjective (based on personal understanding), which are unappealing or difficult for customers to understand.

Don’t believe me?

When was the last time a customer has ordered a glass of wine, like this?

‘I want a mellow red wine with aromas of strawberries, raspberries and a hint of rose petals and soft tannin.’’

Or when did a customer order a meal like this?

’I want a tender cooked chicken breast lighted fried in olive oil with breadcrumbs, served with melted mozzarella cheese and covered in a rich tomato sauce.’

The answer is NEVER.

This is because this is the language we use to describe food and drink on our menus,  and the use of this language is to help customers get an idea of what each product tastes like.  

But this is not how people talk.

The problem with product knowledge training

Often when providing menu training, employees are taught to describe food and beverages using this same style of colourful and vibrant language.  To achieve this, employees are introduced to complex wine wheels, product tasting notes, and given in-depth descriptions to describe specific flavours, aromas, and tastes.

So, what if an employee can’t smell or taste strawberries in a glass of wine or they can’t describe the taste difference between a salmon, or a tuna steak does that mean they are wrong?

The answer is no!

The problem is that everyone has a different sense of taste and what one person views as too sweet, salty or spicy another person will find it just right.  

How customers order 

Unless a customer knows what they want to order, they often ask questions that give the server a hint of what they are looking for.    Most often customers will tell you what they want by using simple descriptive words that are used to describe either both Taste & Texture

· Taste refers to the flavours that someone can identify, these are usually subjective.

· Texture refers to how it feels in either the mouth or how it feels one it is consumed

Taste And Texture

Taste and Texture description words 

Ways that customers ask for suggestions may include:

· ‘I am on a diet I want something light and fresh'

· ‘I am cold I want something hot & spicy

· ‘I feel like a sweet, tropical cocktail

· ‘I am eating a steak and would like a big red wine

· ‘I want a lighter style beer

The challenge for employees is to be able to promote a product based on the words the customer has used, and then describe the product in more details if the customer asks. 

Promote & Describe Process

Promote & Describe Process

How to train your employees

To ensure your team can promote relevant menu items, they need to learn how to use the same descriptive words that customers use to tell the employee what they want.  To do this: 

1. Identify the type of taste and texture words your customers use to describe what they want.

2. Categorise the menu items according to these descriptions

3. Create a simple visual map to help employees to remember.

4. Train your employees how to promote each menu item based on these new descriptions

5. Train employees how to describe the product in more detail (i.e. ingredients, production methods and potential allergy foods)

Wine Description Table

Example wine description table

Your team still need to have an in-depth knowledge of what goes into and how ingredients, production methods and potential allergy foods in each menu item.

So there we have it 'How to increase sales with better menu descriptions'.   By training your staff to promote your products based on the language your customers use to describe what they want, you will help improve the customer experience which will lead to an increase in sales. 

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?  DO  YOU AGREE, OR DO YOU HAVE A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE? If so then leave your comments and feedback below

Ian Johnstone

About the author

Ian is a Sales & Service Coach & Trainer with a background in over 20 years of 5-star Hospitality and Customer Services within Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates. He works with businesses to consistently achieve great results by designing and delivering interactive, engaging and memorable training programs, tailored to meet the needs of each business, their teams and their customers.

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