How to design a persuasive cocktail menu

cocktail and drinks menu persuasive design

It’s the first impression that counts and drinks menu is, without a doubt, one of the most important things that your customers see when they visit your website or bar in person.

That’s why a properly designed menu shouldn’t be an afterthought.

A customer friendly drinks menu is not just a random list of beverages but it has likely been tailored to your targeted customer, strategically designed and it’s also as helpful as possible.

Designing a strategic and persuasive drinks menu not only helps to enhance a positive customer experience but a successful drinks menu is the most importantly, profitable.

According to the case study that focuses on menu engineering, there are 4 drives that can set your drink menu design for a success.

  1. Psychology – Including consumer perception, attention and emotion.
  2. Price – Including profit margins and the perceived value.
  3. Marketing & Strategy – Including pricing and promotion.
  4. Graphic Design – Including layout and typography.

A lot of these tactics can be used alongside each other. So if you follow these 6 tips and strategies then your drinks menu will stand out from the crowd and set you for a success in the long run.

#1 Do your ”target market” research

Your menu should cater to your targeted consumer whether it’s office worker coming for a craft beer on the weekdays, college students hitting the bar on the weekend or single ladies for a cocktail night.

So the question is ”How well do you know consumers of your drinks menu?”

If you answered that you know your customers inside-out then that’s great but remember that this is not a guessing game. One way to get inside the head of your customer is to meet them in person at your establishment or let them take a short survey.

Unfortunately, these methods can be pretty time-consuming and not very scalable if you like to gather data from a lot of people. 

The only way to truly understand them is through a deep online research.

Research should include a location where your customers are based, age range, main competitors in the area, beverage preferences. You also need to find out your customers desires, fears but also how much they are able to pay for drinks.

Yes. You heard this one right. You can’t set the prices of drinks unless you know how much people are able to pay for them.

Once your research is done then you have basically two options.

1. You can target the existing demand 

It’s obviously much easier to target the existing demand because you can be sure that if you do the things right then people will come. On the other hand, there is a good chance that you will compete with other businesses which also mean competing on the price and therefore lower margins.

2. You can target anyone else

This is a much riskier option but also could be well worth it since you could have no competition, lower cost and bigger profit margins.

Now, you can be much more confident with the style of your menu, choice of the beverages and the menu pricing since you know who you’re serving.

But don’t forget that acquiring a new customer is more difficult and more expensive than keeping the existing one. So keep up with the review sites, such as Yelp, TripAdvisor or Foursquare and be engaged on social media sites.

#2 Have a strategic menu design and layout

First of all, think about the structure of your drink list design – the layout can influence what choices of beverages people make.

Clean menu design

clean design cocktail menu

Clean menus with high-quality appealing photos can be a useful selling tool but in many cases, plenty of white space can be just as effective as high imaginary design.

It not only helps you to calm the senses, put your customer at ease when making a decision.

But most importantly, it draws the attention to a featured item for a better customer experience and high-profit margins.

So just keep it simple.

Highlight items with a high-profit margin

The order in which drinks are listed can be very important to their success.

The majority of customers will order from the spot that first caught their attention. To be able to sell your most profitable drink items, be sure to strategically place them in the areas that attract the eyes of your customers.

  • One-page menu – Focus generally goes first to the centre and the top of the page.
  • Two-page menu- Focus goes to the top of the right side page.

drink menu with a featured box

We tend to scan the drinks menu from left to right or from up to the bottom but what ends up initially catching the eye has an unfair advantage over anything a person sees later on.

To make a signature cocktail or a drink special to stand out, you can use various types of graphics to highlight the item, such as putting a box around it (see the image on the right), placing a photo or drawing near to it.

Be aware If you are trying to highlight too many items then none of them will really win.

#2 Have a separate food menu and divide drinks into categories

cocktail menu with limited options and categoriesLimit your drinks menu options

Bar owners or managers often assume that by offering more choices, customers will be more likely able to find just the right thing.

But the theory known as a paradox of choice explains that the more option we have, the more anxiety we feel.

Divide drinks into categories

If you are an establishment that specialises on the craft beer or gin selection then it makes sense to offer a wider selection of that particular beverage.
But you can also divide beverages into categories but with no more than 10 options, not to overwhelm a customer.

Have a separate food menu

Having a separate food and cocktail menu is more practical and won’t overwhelm your customers as the oversized and crowded drink menu does.

#4 Be helpful, include drink descriptions and use your customer language

menu use the space effectivelyWhy some of the food menus makes mouths water? But on the other hand, most of the cocktail menus tend to list only the ingredients?

Consumers often know what they want but looking for a clear direction on the drink list and the language they understand.

To help customers make a decision and to upsell certain drinks, it’s good to include a short but effective description for each item.

The description should be as helpful as possible and preferably in your customer language because a confident consumer is more likely to spend more money on a better drink. 

To effectively market your drinks, use certain power words or adjectives that sell well, such as fresh, floral, savoury, smooth or handcrafted. 

With a rise of health-conscious drinks, consumers often expect freshly-squeezed juices and handpicked herbs in their drinks so make sure to highlight them on the menu.

On the other hand, be aware that if you mention syrup or sugar as one of the ingredients customers automatically assume that the drink is sweet, even though it might not be the case.

#3 Strategically price your drinks menu

Understand the pour cost and profit margins before designing a menu

Understanding the costs and profit margins of various recipes is critical for designing and pricing a successful drink menu.

Costing every single item on the menu is inevitable as it helps to maximise profit and minimise the pour cost. The menu-engineering process depends heavily on the profitability level of each item on the menu. And both costing and engineering of the drink menu should be performed by a single person.

Reduce the pain points and increase perceived value

According to study at Carnegie Mellon University, Consumers spend money until it hurts and the limit is reached when perceived pain is greater than perceived gain.

So how can we reduce these pain points and turn it into something that increases satisfaction, retention and post-purchases?

drinks menu with cocktails, wine and beerOne way to encourage consumers to spend more is by removing a dollar(currency) sign on the menu that reminds people that they’re spending money.

You can even set the format as a single number. Because as much as it might sound like a cliche, people are used to the typical sale price (.99) in the supermarket and will be ignoring it.

Nested pricing is when you include the menu price after the description using the same size font(image on the left). This strategy ensures that the price is secondary element when making a decision, right after a unique name and well-written description.

Some of the bars will typically include a beverage name on the left side and the prices of all beverages lined up in the column on the right side of the menu. This will make a customer to compare prices and eventually decide for the cheapest item on the menu.

#5 Cocktail Menu Storytelling and bringing on nostalgia

It’s hugely important to design a cocktail menu that is easy to read and follow from start to finish with a thematic idea that ties everything together as it’s difficult to engage with a menu if it’s all over the place.

Storytelling is a powerful approach to engage people with your cocktail menu but it shouldn’t be any story. But the story that customers tell themselves.

It should be highly tangible.

Now, whenever we hear a story, we want to relate it to one of our existing experiences. 

One of the great examples has been done by The Savoy’s famous American Bar that has taken London and its boroughs as inspiration for the original new cocktail menu. The Savoy’s cocktail menu takes guests on a historical journey through six of the boroughs that surround The Savoy. This cocktail menu very much celebrated its people and London as a city.

Another example, from Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry of The Dead Rabbit in New York. They’ve managed to open an award-winning cocktail bar twice (previously The Merchant Hotel in Belfast) and published several cocktail lists as graphic novels through the immersive storytelling experience like no other.

For more inspiration check out the world’s best cocktail menus from the most recent years by Tales of the Cocktail. The innovative cocktail menu winner 2016 inspired by botanicals and experimenting with new flavours, created by Ryan Chetiyawardana, Dandelyan.

#6  Name your signature cocktails, think about branding and marketing

How to name a signature cocktail

Your drink is perfected long before you create a name, but coming up with the unique name for each drink is often the hardest part.
The name should be associated with a drink and should at its best evoke some positive feeling in the person that is meant to be enjoying it.
The name gives the drink it’s final character, adds to its appeal, and can attract attention to it.
When people choose a particular drink on the menu, the name accounts for more than half of the reason for selecting it.

Branding and marketing strategy

Whatever tips or marketing strategies you choose, remember that a design of your drinks menu is the one piece of free advertising that all of your customers will see. So, make sure to include your branding design or a little bit of your bar’s identity for a memorable experience.

When it comes to designing a successful cocktail menu, there is always room for a profit improvement. So, continually test new menu designs, until you find the one that works.

Yes. It might be as simple as that.

Did you like this article? If so then share it. Still got some questions or looking for more info? Then go over to my consulting page and let me know what you’re struggling with. You never know, I might be able to answer just that.

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