Saturday, May 22, 2010

Words matter

While I didn't get a chance to catch their session, Tom Denari and Charlie Hopper of advertising firm Young & Laramore graciously met with me in the hallway to catch me up on the highlights of their advice for selling more with well-written menus.

Just like advertising creative, marketing messages on the menu need to be concise as well as creative, Hopper and Denari told me, and cliches are to be avoided above all. The centerpiece of their presentation is this top 12 list -- or bottom 12, depending on how you look at it -- of Forbidden Food Cliche Words and Phrases:

1. Sumptuous
2. Succulent
3. Delectable
4. Piping Hot
5. Mouth-Watering
6. Perfection
7. Satisfying
8. Delicious
9. Heapin' Helpin' (seriously?)
10. Treat Your Tastebuds
11. Like Mom Used to Make
12. Taste Sensation (or Celebration or Explosion)

The key insight for me from their talk was that "best practices" in menu descriptions is a total misnomer, because so-called best practices lead to cliches and a "sea of sameness" (Crap! I just used the No. 1 foodservice industry cliche!)

Also, the journalism adage "Show, don't tell" totally applies here. "Lead customers to what you want them to conclude," Denari said. Meaning, instead of telling customers something on the menu is "fresh," as if you'd serve stale product, use a more evocative phrase like "cooked to order."

Posted by Mark Brandau at