Personal touch plays with our perception when dining out. 

By Tim Nelson
Updated: February 25, 2019
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In the restaurant biz, creating an artisanal perception for potential diners is crucial to winning business. That’s why buzzwords like “farm to table," “free range,” and “GMO-free”  that make it sound like the food is healthily and ethically sourced play a starring role on so many menus.

As it turns out, it’s not just the words on your menu that matters, but how you write them. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Business Research, the personal touch of a handwritten menu can improve consumer perception of a restaurant and even lead eaters to believe that its food is healthier.

Watch: How to Make Restaurant Style Salsa

The team of researchers at Ohio State found that menus with a (seemingly) handwritten typeface “[convey] a sense of human touch, which subsequently induces the perception that love is symbolically imbued in the restaurant's offerings.” Essentially, the more consumers believe that a real person is writing the menu, the more inclined they are to believe that this same level of care extends to how the food is sourced and prepared. Think about it: would the restaurant that lovingly handwrites its menu be more likely to source its proteins from factory farms than the chain restaurant that types out its entrees in comic sans? When judged solely on this criteria, you’d probably think not.

These loving, hand-scrawled menus don’t just make restaurants seem healthier to diners “in both social and solo dining contexts.” That personal touch also generates higher social media engagement, because food that seems like it’s been labored over is probably more Instagrammable. However, it’s important to note that these effects are only observed for restaurants with an existing health-oriented brand. After all, it’s not like you’d suddenly believe a fast food joint is magically nutritious just because they forced someone earning minimum wage to write out the day’s menu.

So next time you’re headed to a healthy-ish restaurant, pay attention to how the menu’s presented. The handwriting may look nice, but it won’t magically reduce that calorie count.

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