Restaurant Menu Design
A good restaurant menu design is key to any restaurant’s marketing plan. It
expresses your eatery’s personality, focuses your overall operations, promotes
profitability, establishes your budget and keeps your brand fresh in your customer’s
What is the goal of a well-crafted restaurant menu?
Your menu is your primary means of representation: It says exactly who you are and
what you hope to convey personality-wise. It also should create enough of an
impression so that it stays with your client long after the waiter or waitress walks off
with it. In addition, it must convey your restaurant’s brand in a manner that makes
diners excited to be there, want to come back and recommend it to family and
What steps should I take before designing my restaurant menu?
As with most creative endeavours proper results can’t be achieved without sufficient
research. In the case of designing the right menu, that means collecting data from
various sources. Examine your own numbers first, such as your restaurant’s
prospective financial and marketing numbers and its sales mix. Then look at your
competitors: Exam their Web sites, menus and marketing efforts and try to see
where they went right and how you could compete successfully with those traits.
Also, look at vendors and see how they handle similar challenges, and read industry
sources (trade publications, published research) to evaluate trends and successes.
After that, consider your location and how it relates to the immediate neighborhood
around you. Eighty percent of a typical restaurant’s business usually comes from the
residents living within a 10-minute drive of that location. Knowing this, ask yourself
What can my restaurant menu offer that others in the area do not?
What menu items do we have in common?
How does our pricing match up?
Does my menu offer more variety than theirs?
Determining these factors will help guide you towards designing the right menu for
Identifying or defining the market sector which you are seeking to satisfy is very
How should I design my menu?
There are no rights or wrongs in restaurant menu design. What works with some
establishments fails at others. However, as mentioned before, your menu should be
an expression of your restaurant’s personality. In designing it, think about how it
will best represent your image and objectives. Are you classy and sophisticated?
Fun-loving and wild? A small, plain text menu can be used to enhance a restaurant’s
impression of elegance of simplicity. A thick, flashy, image-intensive menu can
emphasize a location’s festive side. Once you determine your restaurant’s
personality, you can easily begin crafting the look of your menu to match that.
A menu is a means of communication, a tool by which you communicate to your
customers. So, one of the tasks of a menu planner is to create the desired
impression though clear communication.
How should I arrange items on the menu? Should I use merchandising
techniques to help?
Design your restaurant menu in a way that mimics the dining experience. Arrange
items sequentially, with appetizers, salads and soups first, then entrees, then
desserts. Place star items on pages that contain more visual flair than others, and
set markers or photographs around featured items to further draw attention.
Merchandising techniques will further help this agenda and create a menu by
allowing you to easily spotlight specialty and signature items, introduce newer
selections and invoke an appropriate sense of personality. In turn, the techniques
also make these items easier for your clients to find and recognize.
What are some tips I can use to design my restaurant menu?
Place your best selling items, or those you want to have the biggest draw, on the
Prime Sweet Spots of the menu. These areas refer to the spots where the average
client brings is or her eyes to first – and thus receive one’s first attention. Also,
arrange your menu in columns, depending on your restaurant’s image: One column
inflects a sense of sophistication and elegance: two columns bring forth a sense of
Highlight spotlight or signature items in a way that draws attention to them: Boxing
selections off within your menu works well at this, as does adding colours,
photographs, labels and logos.
Naming items specifically or creatively and using active descriptions of the
ingredients in the dishes, makes the food sound more enticing and exotic for the
client – and may induce future visits.
What are some common mistakes in restaurant menu design?
If your menu creates problems for your clients, they will become apprehensive and
less likely to return. Common mistakes include: Menu print that is too small to read
easily; menus that are too big to handle easily; menus that lack English
translations for non-English words or phrases; menus that look antiquated in
presentation; menus without daily or weekly special insets; entrees that don’t look
like their photos; generic clip art; and misalignment of brand and menu.
How should I price my menu?
Diners are savvy, and often they’ll know how your items match up value-wise
against your competition. In light of this keep your more everyday items (dishes
you can find anywhere, really) approximately $1 more or less than your competition.
Many customers do not perceive such increments to be significant, especially with
dishes above $5, so there is some leeway there. Likewise, items unique to your
restaurant can be a little higher but also should not exceed the other items
excessively. Doing so will make the latter more enticing to diners, especially those
who visit your establishment regularly.
Also, to get a better feel for the sense of value you are promoting, take a picture of
each item on the menu in a way that mimics the actual presentation on the table.
After doing so, ask yourself: Do the items look like they are worth the price you are
charging? Could a change in presentation justify an increase in price? Is there
consistency with the overall look or does there seem to be a wide range of
inconsistency in the price versus its presentation? You’ll be amazed at what you
discover when you look at the entire menu collectively through the customer’s eyes.
How often should I update my menu design? How about menu profitability?
To keep your menu fresh, relevant and profitable, you need to know how each item
is performing and how it stacks up against your competition. Conduct an analysis of
your menu every six to twelve months. During this evaluation, look at profitability
analysis and competitive menu analysis and determine what works best and what
isn’t working at all. Then make the proper adjustments so that your changes reflect
Comparing your menu with that of your competitors also helps. It not only opens
more doors towards pricing your menu, it offers you a solid foundation on how to
measure your profits. Performing a cross analysis helps uncover strengths and
weaknesses in your pricing plan, specifically in terms of the way your items are
priced and presented. By doing this, you determine which items are most popular,
which are most profitable, which need extra emphasis, and which need to removed
Regardless of the method used to mark up food and beverages, prices charged by
commercial food services must not only cover costs, but return a profit as well.
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