Creating a good wine menu design is both a science and an art. You should follow the rules based on research and studies, but also create a wine list that matches your restaurant’s personality.
You might think that your wine list is good enough, and that may be very true. However, a great wine list can increase your sales by 10-15%! I would say that’s worth a little extra work.
First things first. Your wine list should be easy to read for everyone at any time, especially when the lights are dimmed for dinner service. So make sure that the text is big enough and stands out from the background. Don’t try to pack all your wines on one page no matter what; if you have 30 bottles, it’s better to use two pages and make the wine list easier to read.
Your wine list is an integral part of your restaurant and should be treated as such. Hopefully, you have a brand style guide – a set of guidelines that defines your restaurant’s branding. If not, you can create it with the assistance from Content Marketing Institute.
Basically, your restaurant should have a defined personality and visual branding rules that convey this personality. Those include fonts, colors, and logos. This cohesion helps your customers recognize your brand and remember it for a longer period of time.
Studies have shown that people don’t read menus like a book. Instead, they pay the most attention and gaze most frequently to the right side just below the top and then follow a pattern presented on the graphic below.
The eye-scanning pattern also changes depending on how many panels the menu has, as you can see in the table below.
Therefore, you might want to consider whether your wine menu design should have one panel, two, or more. That will mostly depend on how many wines you carry and what your aesthetic is. Next, you can identify the areas that are the “hot spots”, which is where you should put the wines you want to highlight.
Once your wine menu design is consistent with your branding and easy to read, it is time to use it to increase your wine revenue.
You want to divide all your wines into one of four categories that are based on profitability and the number of bottles sold. In order to find out which wines are most profitable, you subtract your wholesale cost from the price you charge. The next step is to look at how many bottles of each wine are being sold. Finally, put each wine into one of those categories:
Stars — These are the items with high profitability and a lot of bottles sold. Your menu should definitely highlight them.
Plow-horses — You sell a lot of these bottles, but they are not very profitable. You may want to create more profitable versions of these menu items; for instance, replace a generic Sauvignon Blanc for a Sancerre or a Pouilly-Fumé.
Puzzles — They are the opposites of horses: you sell few of them, but they are highly profitable. Make sure your servers are promoting these wines and investigate whether customers like the taste of the items in question. Sometimes simply lowering prices will increase sales volume enough to produce higher overall profits.
Dogs — These are the items with low profitability and a small number sold. While omitting these wines may be an option, you can’t necessarily omit everything in this category. You can try to deemphasize these items by simply listing their title and prices on your menu and not putting any further effort into their promotion.
For a moment, let’s forget about the categories. Instead, list all the wines you carry and assign them into sections: sparkling, whites, reds, etc. If your wine list is extensive, I would recommend dividing up the sections into subsections; those can be based on the region, body, or any other characteristic that makes sense to you and your customers.
Subdividing the wines is important because you want to avoid jamming too many wines into one section. Ideally, you should stick to 5-6 wines in a section to decrease the burden of choice.
Research shows that people order less when they have too many choices. I’ve seen wine lists that looked like books. I’m not sure anybody ever had the patience to go through them. Our goal is to make the menu comprehensible even for someone who doesn’t know much about wine so that they actually buy it.
By now, you should have an idea of your sections and subsections and which wines belong to which sections. The next step is to rank the wines within those sections.
There are many ways to rank wines: by price, from lighter to fuller bodied, alphabetically, by region, etc. However, not all of them are good. For example, ranking wines by price draws unnecessary attention to the cost, which usually results in customers picking the wine based on price (and most of the time they choose the cheapest one). Other methods of ranking the wines can all be effective, but you should read tip #7 before making any decisions.
The design process involves highlighting the items you want to sell the most, but it goes beyond this and can’t be accomplished with a simple checklist. When designing your menu, it pays to consider your target audience: what types of customers order which items, what drives them to your establishment (a certain dish, cheap drinks, atmosphere), do your customers read your menu thoroughly, and other factors. You can read more about how to find your target audience in my blog post.
Once you can confidently say that you know your customers, it is time to highlight the wines you want to sell (especially Stars and Puzzles). One of the most foolproof ways to do so is to place the wines you’re trying to emphasize on top of each section. People usually pay most attention to the first two spots in a section, then move on to the next one. Furthermore, you want to put the Dogs close to the bottom of the section.
Another great way to underline some wines is by using boxes and other visuals that immediately stand out from the wine menu design. For example, you can create a box with two wines that are “Sommelier Picks”. This method is effective unless is overdone, so do not use boxes for more than 2-3 wines in the whole list.
The price should not be the most important feature that your guests consider when thinking about wine. In order to make it as inconsequential as possible, you can include no dollar signs, no vertical alignment of the prices, or even have the price be printed in a lighter hue than the rest of the text.
A descriptive or interesting copy will help restaurant-goers better understand your wines, save time for wait staff and maybe even provide a little entertainment. Studies have shown that adding a description to each menu item increases sales by up to 27%. The trick is to a write simple and engaging copy that describes each wine but is still short and to the point. You should also remember to match the vibe of your place; casual, formal, young, serious; your wine description should mirror the restaurant’s personality.
The description should be concise, so just a few adjectives will be enough. For instance, a Pinot Noir’s description can say: “cherry, cranberry, earth, with a hint of oak” or “elegant chuggable classic”. And the best thing is that they can be the same wine! It all depends on your customers and your restaurant’s personality.
White space, also called negative space, is all the unmarked space in a design and your good friend. It helps to increase the reader’s comprehension by up to 20%. Thus, using white space in the wine menu will make it easier to read and understand it. Wine is confusing enough for most people that we should make it as simple as possible.
You can increase the white space by having clearly separated sections and subsections. Also, make sure the spacing between lines is big enough for the menu to be easy to read.
Like anything in marketing, your wine menu design should be tested. Otherwise, we won’t know if we have created the best wine list possible. You don’t have to do it, but it might be a useful tool to help you increase revenue.
You can use one wine list for a couple of weeks, then switch to a different design. Just remember that you should change just one thing in your wine menu design in order to know what actually makes the menu better or worse. This is called A/B testing – you have version A and version B and compare them without changing any other variables. Ideally, you would simultaneously show version A to half of the guests and version B to the other half, but that can be close to impossible at a restaurant. Either way, once you compare A and B, you can change another variable and compare C against the winner, and so on.
It’s not as complicated as it sounds once you start. All you need is sales data and a spreadsheet to record it and compare it after the experiment is over.
There are a few steps you can take to create the best wine menu design possible for your restaurant. First, it should be easy to read and understand and coherent with the rest of your marketing collateral.
Secondly, you create a menu that will help you increase your sales. That can be done by identifying the items you want to sell and emphasizing them through the menu design, for example, at the top of the sections and in boxes that stand out from the rest of the wine list.
Thirdly, you want to make sure the actual description is on point and that your prices do not stand out. Once you have implemented your design, test it to see if you can improve it.