What To Order When Confusion Is On The Menu

- Nov 21, 2017-

The other evening, a friend and I tried out a new restaurant. Although the menu was available online, we decided not to look at it before going to preserve the thrill of discovery.

With bright-eyed anticipation, we took the menu handed to us, and after a longer-than-normal period of quiet to peruse, we looked up at each other, and my friend deadpanned: “The consumer is confused.”

On the menu were about a dozen appetizers priced between $8 and $12. There were nine small/large plates priced $8-9/$12-13. And there were half a dozen sides for $3-4, a few of which were the same as the appetizers but I’m guessing in smaller portions. So now I’m starting to wonder: If I get the large plate, do I necessary get 50% more food? Should I just play it safe and get the small plates, or maybe a couple of sides would cost less than a small plate?

All the items had adequate descriptions of main ingredients, and most had at least one special symbol indicating with or without a side, gluten-free, vegan, spice level or raw/undercooked food warning. I’m not even going to address all the ink that was used on the beer, wine and cocktail list.

Besides food, the menu contained a few of the main causes of consumer confusion, which leads to the consumer making a decision to not buy (loss of sale), choose a lower-cost option (reduced sale) or being dissatisfied with the service or product (bad customer review, loss of repeat business). Which of the following causes of consumer confusion do you think the menu had?

  • Too many choices — While people do like having options, too many can overwhelm them. There’s usually a magic number depending on the type of service or product, but these days it’s easy for retailers to feel like they need to offer lots of choices in order to compete with the behemoths that have an assortment that requires a search engine.

  • Choices too similar — When there are so many choices available, it’s more likely that the options become very similar to one another and difficult to differentiate for and by the consumer. It’s important to note that when the consumer has to work harder to differentiate the product, the negative effect is that the consumer feels less certain of the purchase decision which reduces overall satisfaction.

  • Information problems — Gluten-free or vegan, moderate or very spicy? Leather gel, leather match or top grain leather on touch surfaces? From food to furniture, the effect of insufficient information and overload of it are the same: the buyer doesn’t understand. As it relates to the assortment of products, inconsistent information across categories or brands is also a threat to sales and maximizing potential.

When was the last time you looked at how you present and price your services and products with the above causes for confusion and barrier to sales in mind?