As much as going to restaurants is about getting to bask in the deliciousness of new and favorite foods, the ambience of the space you’re dining in is a super important factor for a lot of us. Whether you’re looking for a cozy spot to relax and enjoy your food in or an elegant dig to dress up for dinner for, it’s a big deal. According to a study, one aspect of a restaurant’s decor may affect you more than you think — among other things, handwritten fonts on menus may make you feel less lonely.
The study, titled "Love is in the menu," was spearheaded by Stephanie Liu, Assistant Professor of Consumer Sciences at The Ohio State University. So, how can a restaurant menu foster a sense of human connection and engagement? According to the research team, it’s in the handwritten fonts. The researchers found that restaurants that opted for handwritten (versus machine-written) typeface generate more favorable attitudes toward the menu, perceived healthiness, and even social media engagement. "The results show that handwritten typeface creates a competitive advantage by conveying a sense of human touch, which subsequently induces the perception that love is symbolically imbued in the restaurant’s offerings," explained researchers in the study’s abstract. Who knew?
If you eat out a lot, you probably have felt endeared at one point or another (and even snapped a shot of) a pretty, creative handwritten menu. It definitely does give restaurants a cozy, human touch — and interestingly, the researchers reported that these positive effects occur only when the restaurant brand is health-focused. Maybe now you know why you keep coming back to that favorite juice bar or salad spot with the cute menus and atmosphere.
Handwritten menu typefaces can even function to make solo diners feel less lonely, suggests the study. "[Customers] feel that the restaurant put more effort into the design of this menu and they are getting this product to you with more care," said Liu. It’s a pretty effective marketing technique, and the research explains that its definitely on the rise in the contemporary restaurant industry. The most interesting part about all of this is that most of us don’t consciously register any of this while we’re eating out or stopping to pick up food from a restaurant. “As a marketing strategy, customers are just subconsciously processing information, and they feel that human touch in the letters on the menu,” Liu explained. If you’re like me and have never even considered this angle before now, you’re probably realizing that the process actually makes a lot of sense.
The abstract for "Love is in the menu" points out that their findings could point to expanded strategies for branding, visual design, and menu psychology. It’s so cool to think about how restaurants are really dialing in to these super subtle factors — gone are the days that most food or drink spots didn’t acknowledge the many connotations that could come with something as seemingly standard as a menu. Next time you go out to eat, check out what kind of atmosphere the menu is trying to give off: if you like it, it might just be the reason that you keep coming back there.
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