Who would have thought restaurant menus might ultimately decide where one spends one’s vacation? While I believe there are more factors to that decision than the gastronomic dimension (unless you’re a serious foodie), Baiomy et al’s study on “Menus as Marketing Tools” drives home the point that in marketing a product like a resort hotel that relies so much on the anticipation of a special and total experience, nothing is too tactical or insignificant for the marketing strategist to overlook. Everything has to “hang” together in the perception of the prospective hotel guest in terms of conveniences, like knowing in advance what manner of beast or vegetable matter is on the menu, and of intangibles like “sense of place.”
The researchers staked out a modest claim, and justifiably so. They can take this research in a far more fruitful direction not only by studying the reactions of the guests to the menu (as they apparently intend to do) but by studying online menus (or the lack of it) in relation to online customer reviews. Will it ultimately matter if a restaurant does a great job of publishing its menu if the restaurant gets only a two-star rating in Yelp?
The dichotomy might even open the restaurant to criticisms of false advertising, especially when there are sensory / affective words used. While a menu might truly serve as a restaurant’s “signature,” there might be more dynamics to consider when it goes online.