min read

Innovative Menu Design Mitchells & Butlers

Build case study: optimising choice architecture

Mitchells & Butlers is one of the largest restaurant groups in the UK and owns chains such as Brown’s, All Bar One, Harvester and Toby Carvery, amongst others.

Following a competitive tender, Cowry were appointed to conduct a systematic review of their menus, initially diagnosing problems and friction points, and followed by the creation of new menu design concepts to be tested.

Cowry’s strong Behavioural Design team, lead by Chief Design Officer, Raphy March worked closely with the menu design and pricing teams to take on this challenging and innovative programme.

The programme involved an extensive literature review, live psychometric testing with customers using eyetracking, a portfolio of creative conceptual designs to be tested, followed by further eyetracking and live, controlled restaurant experiments.

The work was outstanding. The results amazing. Read on.

The behavioural challenge



New Product Innovation

Menus can often be overwhelming and confusing. Behavioural scientists call this Cognitive Overload and it can be fatal for restauranteurs. Too much procrastination can create frustration with the customer and leave them with a sense of feeling that they may have made the wrong choice. Too much time can increase the table turnover time and reduce profitability for the restaurant.

Through pop out eye tracking techniques we identified that the menu designs weren’t helping. The menu wasn’t ”chunked up” into easy to find sections. The imagery used directed the customer eyes off the page and in the wrong directions. The cocktail menu didn’t show what glassware the drinks came in, a real no no for guys looking to choose!

The behavioural design

A suite of new menus were designed to be tested, initially with further, more extensive eye tracking using stimulus designed to give a real menu feel. We deployed a series of nudges in each menu to help customers choose the items they were looking for and would enjoy.

Cognitive overload

Visual Complexitythe menu was broken down into easy to read and easy to distinguish sections. More space was dedicated to Starters and Desserts to balance up the menu pages, creating three sections


Picture Superiority Biasimagery was used to help guide customers through the menu and attract their attention. Flora and fauna images directed eye gaze to the start of each menu section and the glass shapes for the cocktails were highlighted to reduce ambiguity


Anchoringspecific leading dishes in each section were chosen, and additional default dishes were made salient to help aid customer decision making

The behavioural results

Customers read entire menu from left to right
in a spiral pattern
Customers more fixated
on menu at key points in decision making
Additional revenue from the menu 3x bigger than target set

In the video you can see the before and after of the eyetracking psychometric testings.

In the second half of the video, Current State – Old Menu, you can see how the eyes of the customer dart all over the menu, with no apparent pattern of fixation.

In the first half of the video, you can see the Future State – New Menu and see how the customers eyes follow a spiral pattern. At first looking at the cocktails and starters, then to the Mains, then to the Desserts. The customer then starts again and follows the same pattern.

With this confidence, we then trialled the new menu designs in the real world in real restaurants with real results.

The results were transformational. The original target was smashed as we delivered a three fold return in revenue versus the forecast.

The programme is now being rolled out to the wider estate of restaurants across the group.




The behavioural outcome


The early results of the menu changes look very encouraging - just wanted to say thank you for all your hard work on the project

David Gallacher, Divisional Director, Mitchells & Butler plc

Read further Build case studies below or explore more case studies featuring Dig, Fix and Teach.

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