MMmmm! How to Write Persuasive Advertising for Food

by Lou

Perfect for restaurants and food products. This is a great recipe for creating delectable word descriptions without sounding weird. Throw in a few NLP language patterns to leaven the mix, and you’ve got meta-layers on meta-layers of rich, persuasive goodness. Let’s dig in…

Findings in menu psychology tells us that diners actually enjoy the names of relatives on menus and are much more likely to buy “Grandma’s Homemade Chicken Soup” rather than something like, “Fresh Chicken Soup,” or “Aunt Jane’s Famous Baby Back Ribs” to just “Pork Baby Back Ribs”.

And research by Brian Wansink of Cornell University said that descriptive food labels increased sales by almost 30%. Labels like “Five-Alarm Habanero Wings”and “Ye Olde Carrot Cake” do remarkably well. Dr. Wansink also stated that vivid adjectives not only help diners choose what to eat but also make them feel better and more satisfied after they finished their meal.

Here’s what you need to increase your food sales:


The menu psychology research found the use of these five descriptor categories in the labels, food descriptions (or both) help increase sales dramatically.

1. Sensory rich words

a) Visual

Handcrafted, Triple-Basted, Slow-Cooked, Golden-Brown, Juicy, Hand-Selected, Fresh from the Oven, Fork Tender, Delicate

b) Gustatory

Crispy, Creamy, Buttery, Plump, Satin, Tender, Juicy, Ice Cold, Spicy, Toasted, Velvety, Melt in Your Mouth, Tangy, Natural Juices

2. Health & Diet words

Heart Healthy, Low Calorie, Fresh, Low-Sugar, No-Sugar, Free-Range, Natural, All Natural, Organic, 100% Cholesterol Free, Heart Smart, Vegetarian

3. Memories/Nostalgia

“Ye Olde…”, “Grandma’s…,” “Homestyle…,”  ”The perfect comfort food…”, “Made from scratch…” “Like from your trip to France…”

4. Geographic

Geographic descriptors also did well in the research: “Southwestern…,” “Cajun…” “Northern Indian…,” Sicilian style…” “Country style…,” “Caribbean…” If some of your food is grown locally, say so on the menu/description. Studies have shown that diners like helping out the local food producers.

5. Brand Names

Restaurant chains in the USA are finding out that putting the brand names of the products they use also increases sales. TGIF has “Jack Daniels Sauce”. Huddle House uses “Minute Maid Orange Juice” on their menus. And you can now find “Oreo Cookie Ice Cream” on many menus these days. If you are using a brand name product in some of your dishes, use it.

WARNING: Avoid what are now considered menu description cliches: zesty, sumptuous, mouth-watering, indulgent, unforgettable, world-famous, smothered, hearty, flavorful, pan-fried, special, and using apostrophes (“”).

Now Let’s Add Some NLP Language Patterns…

Although you can use language patterns in the food/dish descriptions, you can also use them in other areas of the menu, restaurant, or packaging (if you are selling a food product). First decide what state(s) you want your customers to feel. Hunger is usually a good state for a start. You can add embedded commands to your menu and other print items (posters for example). For example…

• ”When you’re so hungry, our Awesome Blossom is a satisfying dish to feed your craving.” (This one also uses the Milton Model pattern of Phonological Ambiguity – “You’re craving.”)

• “Did you ever feel so hungry that you couldn’t decide what to eat? Well, our Comfort Food Platter is just the ticket…”

Nostalgia is another great state for your customers to be in. Aside from the music and the decor, you can also use language patterns to elicit this state in your customers.

• ”Allow yourself to drift back to a time when you had the most delicious ice cream.”

• ”Remember when your mother made meat loaf…?” (Careful here, some parents might not have been good cooks.) I might use something like, “Remember when your parents took you to your favorite restaurant?”

• “A person can enjoy all the home-cooked goodness once again.”

I’ve written a lot of menu descriptions in my copywriting career. It’s a lot of work but well worth it. It’s easy to go overboard on using these techniques. So just use a sprinkle of what you found here.

Now…Can you imagine how much more food you will sell by using the information in this post?


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