Restaurant Menu Language

The Lempert Report
March 14, 2022

Carolyn Fortuna wrote an important column on CleanTechnica about how language of menus could inspire us to make better choices. She asks if the language used in a restaurant’s menu change the way you look at plant based foods? What do you think of when you read a menu and see the words “rich” or “crispy?” The language of food can be blatant (“acidic”) or nuanced (“honeyed”); it can be inviting (“citrusy”) or inhibiting (“sour”).

The words on menus and sandwich boards suggest flavors that inspire customers’ eating decisions, so the language of food can help build anticipation and even convince a hesitant customer to try something new. Today’s food entrepreneurs, she says, are learning to draw upon an extraordinary mélange of language, history, and food to appeal to flexitarians and others who have become intrigued by meatless meals. Compared to original dish names that used language highlighting the lack of meat in a dish (e.g., “Meat-free” or “Vegetarian”), new names that emphasized taste or origin (e.g., “Cumberland-spiced”) or used more appealing words for plant-based options (e.g., “Field-grown” or “Garden”) significantly increased sales of the target vegetarian dishes according to a field experiment conducted in a UK based café chain reported in the “Language of Sustainable Diets” by study authors Bacon ( behavioral science researcher), and Wise, Attwood & Vennard of the World Resources Institute. WRI finds that the two most effective descriptive messages doubled the chance that a consumer would order a vegetarian menu item. These themes are “small changes can make a big difference” and “join a movement of people choosing foods with less impact on the climate.” ​

We have said for a long time that plant-based foods need to stand on their own merits – and not try to emulate or mimic their animal counterparts. Taste is number one.

Be sure you join us along with The Food Institute at the Protein & Plan Evolution Virtual Conference June 1-3 - as for the first time ever we bring both sides of protein to the table and discuss the future. Is it flexitarian? Carnivore? Vegan? You are in for a riveting three-day discussion! Join us at