Have you ever thought about why you keep ordering that yummy burger or pasta dish from your favorite restaurant every time you go? It’s not just about the food – it’s what your eyes say too! In this blog post, we’ll explore how eye tracking technology can reveal the secrets of restaurant menus and how it affects your decisions.

Did you ever wonder how people actually look at a restaurant menu in the first place? Do they really read the whole thing or just skim the bottom line?

The Power of First Impressions

As you scroll down the menu, your eyes start to wander. They say “first impressions are everything,” and that’s definitely true when it comes to restaurant menus. Just one look can decide if you want lobster or salad.

According to eye-tracking research, when you first look at a menu, your eyes are drawn to the main features. Bold headers, bright pictures, and bright colors are like magnets. You can’t help but fall in love with the “chef’s special” section or that gorgeous photo of a perfectly cooked steak. The restaurant’s goal is to get you off to a good start, and you’re happy to oblige.

The Menus Visual Map

Have you ever thought about how you move through a restaurant like you’re on a treasure hunt? Your eyes follow a certain pattern. You start at the top left, where you check out the amazing appetizers and drinks, and then the top right where your sweet tooth is at home. You can’t help but take a look at the wine list, and then you move down the left side where the main courses are showing off their amazing descriptions, and then you cross over to the right side to check out the sides and drinks. The National Restaurant Association reported that 80% of restaurant diners said that menu item descriptions significantly influenced their ordering decisions.

It’s not a coincidence that your eyes follow this pattern. Menu designers are like chefs, and they know exactly where they want your eyes to go. High-end items often follow this route, so you don’t miss out on that amazing lobster bisque or that amazing chocolate lava cake.

The Art of Visual

Pictures speak a thousand words, and that’s especially true when it comes to restaurant menus. Images are a key part of menu design, and they can really pull you in with their visual appeal. When you see a delicious picture of a food, it’s like falling in love all over again. Eye-tracking shows that pictures of food can actually make you more likely to order it. But, it’s important to remember that these images better represent the real deal, otherwise you might be in for a real letdown.

Price and Typography’s Sneaky Influence

Let’s talk about money! The way prices are written on menus can really affect how you choose to spend your money. Research has shown that if you take out the dollar sign, it can make prices less scary. So, instead of saying “$12”, it’s now “12”. Pretty sneaky! The size and look of the descriptions and prices are also important. If you have a fancy font, it can make you think that your lobster bisque really is worth the price tag.

The Language

Words can transform a meal into something more than just a meal. Words like mouth-watering, succulent, and tender are like magic on a menu, and eye-tracking studies show that these words grab your attention. They create a picture in your head, making the food even more amazing. A research paper published in the Journal of Sensory Studies found that descriptive language led to a 27% increase in dish sales.

White Space

When it comes to menu design, white space is the star of the show. It’s the blank spot where there’s no text or pictures, and it’s not there by chance – it’s used to draw your eye in and make the layout look great. It’s all about finding the right balance between giving you the info you need and not overwhelming you with too many options.

The Comfort of Familiarity

We tend to stick to the same things over and over again, and that’s especially true when it comes to restaurant menus. You’ll probably look at the menu for something you know you’ll like, or something you’ve tried before. It’s that “I know it’s good” feeling that usually leads to ordering the same thing over and over again. So, those dishes that have always been special to you have a big advantage when it comes to strategy.

Eye-Tracking Insights for Restaurant Owners

Eye-tracking studies provide valuable insights for restaurant owners seeking to optimize their menus for increased sales and customer satisfaction. Here are some key takeaways:

  1. Position Signature Dishes Strategically: Place signature dishes or high-margin items in the prime real estate of the menu, specifically the upper-left quadrant.
  2. Use Color Sparingly: While color can attract attention, overuse can create visual clutter and hinder decision-making. Use color strategically to highlight specific dishes or sections.
  3. Employ Clear Typography and Layout: Choose fonts that are easy to read and maintain consistent spacing between items. A well-organized layout guides eye movements and enhances readability.
  4. Consider Context and Preferences: Tailor menu designs to the specific clientele and restaurant atmosphere. For instance, a health-conscious restaurant might emphasize lighter-colored dishes and highlight nutritional information.
  5. Continuously Evaluate and Refine: Eye-tracking studies can be conducted periodically to assess the effectiveness of menu designs and identify areas for improvement.


Wow, your trip to the restaurant is way more interesting than you think! Designers put a lot of effort into creating menus that don’t just show off the food, but also show you what’s on the menu and help you make the best choices. So next time you’re looking at a menu, remember that it’s more than just a bunch of recipes – it’s a masterpiece that makes your dining experience even better.

With the help of eye-tracking technology, we can get a better understanding of how people are using restaurant menus. We can see the patterns of their eyes as they move, which gives us a better idea of how they make decisions and what they like. This helps restaurant owners make their menus better, make customers happier, and increase sales.


  • Stone, M. (2021). “The psychology of menu design: What to consider when crafting your menu.” Toast.
  • Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, “The Secret Language of Menus: And What You Need to Know to Understand It,” 2009.