iStockphoto; (inset) Courtesy of the International Journal of Hospitality Management

ScienceShot: How a Restaurant Menu Is Like a Book

Great reads of American literature: Moby-Dick, The Sound and the Fury, and, um, a Chili's menu. Okay, it's hardly Faulkner. But hungry diners do read menus much like they read books, researchers report online today in the International Journal of Hospitality Management. Common thinking in the restaurant business, on the other hand, suggests that consumers' gazes should jump immediately to "sweet spots." In a traditional menu, these sit just above the center of the right-hand pages, where a restaurateur might place their choicest options, from $7.99 wings to bloomin' onions. To test this idea, the team strapped pupil-tracking machines to 25 faux foodies reading a menu as if ready to order. And, it turns out, their eyes didn't linger on any one spot in the listing. Instead, the subjects scanned the menus in a familiar manner (see diagram), from left-to-right and top-to-bottom. Still, they did seem to avoid one section in the menu: the salads.

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