Restaurant owners of all shapes and sizes know that their menu matters to their customers. But when it comes to online ordering, many brush aside the need for product photos – primarily because of the perceived cost. We’re going to tell you why that’s a bad idea.

Why is imagery used in the first place? Arguably the very best way to promote your restaurant online is with high-quality, drool-inducing photos. Remember that old saying, “a picture speaks a thousand words?” Well, imagery is used in marketing for exactly that purpose – it conveys a message without actually saying anything. The brain is better able to understand the meaning of an image, with less effort. It only takes 13 milliseconds for your brain to register an image and 50 milliseconds for your brain to form a first impression. Not only that but the brain can process images 60,000 times faster than words and as a result forces an emotional trigger.

In marketing the use of imagery can play a significant role in that promise you’re making to prospective customers. They help to attract the right customer at the right time by provoking the right emotional response and creating a sense of desire within the customer.

Why are product photos important? We are bombarded by food images, from Instagram and Pinterest, to food companies and even chefs themselves. Text is becoming obsolete as 60% of images uploaded online are food related. This proliferation of food photography online, in particular via social media channels, has spurred a wide appreciation of food. Nowadays, the visual appearance of a dish is seen just as important as, if not more important than, the taste/flavor itself. If you have good food photography, it can have a big influence on a customer’s decision on whether or not they will buy something. Furthermore the imagery used will be responsible for a large amount of impulse buys that consumers purchase.

How can great food photography help you increase sales? One thing that we know for certain is that viewing images of desirable foods provokes appetite. The way in which a food is visually presented exerts an impact on people’s flavor perception, and can modify people’s subsequent food choices, not to mention their consumption behavior. In an ecommerce site, 67% of consumers say the quality of a product image is “very important” in selecting and purchasing a product and according to Rapp, a professionally-taken photo of a particular dish could help boost its sales by 30%. In addition to that, the average ticket order received from an online purchase is an estimated 12-17% higher as a result of the food imagery that accompanies online menus and the up-sell of additional items when prompted.

So, a picture can be worth a thousand words (or dollars in this case); the use of high-quality photographs/ images of your food can influence and prompt an individual (your customers) to make a decision and motivate them to buy. Incorporating mouth-watering visuals to make the most of your menu is a worthwhile investment. It can pay huge dividends that will help increase your online ROI substantially.