Do’s & Don’ts of Good Restaurant Menu Design

Posted by on Feb 18, 2017 in Blog | No Comments

As with so many things, your restaurant menu must start with a plan. These are the questions you should ask yourself or your team before getting started.

New or Existing Restaurant

Who is my target audience/customer?

What image do we want to project? (ie cutting edge, fun, comfortable, classic, elegant) Choose adjectives to describe how you want customers to feel when they dine with you.

What are your signature items? (These are selections that other restaurants typically do not carry — or selections that you do particularly well)

What categories of food will you offer?

Existing Restaurant

What are your best day parts?

What are your best sellers?

What are your most profitable selections?

What do you have to offer, but don’t make much money on or really don’t want to offer.

The best menus all have the same quality: easy navigation. Throwing things here and there might be fun, but in the long run it will annoy your customers. Keep it simple. Make the copy easy to read. Make selections easy to find. Use a type size that is readable for all your customers. If you cater to seniors keeps this mind, you will want to choose a larger font size.

If your restaurant is not well lit, you will also want to use a larger and/or bolder font.

If you want customers to choose a selection based on price, line the prices up on the right. (See example) If you want them to choose a selection because it sounds good and appeals to their appetite, put prices at the end of the description. We recommend this for our restaurant customers. Customers are more likely to come back if they like what they ordered. If they order the least expensive item, it may not be something they love.

It is best to price things with a “9” at the end because most people round down (4.49 becomes 4.40). If you exclude the cents in the price you will be preceived as more expensive 19.99 as opposed to $19.

For new restaurants with 100 or less seats, we recommend menu holders. New restaurants typically require many adjustments in selections, pricing, etc. in the first few months. Holders offer the most flexibility. Holders allow you to reprint one page without changing the entire menu.

Some owners complain that holders do not last very long and after a few months look dingy. Here’s a tip: slip a sheet of chipboard between the menu pages to make the menu stiffer and it appears of better quality. This will keep the plastic from scratching and your holders will last longer.

As a rule it is better to stay away from blues (particularly light and medium blues) in your menu design. Blue denotes mold in the food industry. You don’t want any misconceptions about your food quality. If your logo has blue in it, keep the blues to the cover and away from any food photos.

If you decide to use photos in your menu invest in a good food photographer. Bad food photos can turn off a diner’s appetite and discourage return visits. Better no photos than bad photos. Sometimes you can find royalty free photos that look similar to your selections. With good cropping techniques, no one will know it is not your photo.

Choose a serif type for body copy. Serif type is easier to read in small sizes than san serif. (serif fonts have little feet or notches at the tops and bottoms of all the letters.) This is a serif font.

Choose a type size 10 point or larger. Again, if you serve many seniors, go with 12 point or larger.

Use color for focus. Don’t splash color everywhere. If there is color everywhere, there is no focus. Put your headlines and signature icons in color, then highlight a couple of house favorites. Put your description in black or a dark color.

Generally an item with a description will sell more than one without. Descriptions get the taste buds flowing and the mouth watering. Use this to your advantage. You’ll even sell more BLT’s with a description (ie crisp applewood bacon, fresh tomatoes and crisp lettuce on fresh toasted house bread with mayonnaise. Add melted cheese for only 99¢ extra. Are you hungry yet?

Don’t forget to include the disclaimer regarding undercooked foods. The verbage is different for every area. Check with your local health department. Be sure to include an asterick (*) before each disclaimer and after each selection that could be undercooked. (ie eggs, burgers, steaks — if in doubt, put it in) Reprinting a menu for this reason is no fun!

Whatever you do, be consistent. Don’t use one logo on the front of your building and another in the menu. If you capitalize Mozzarella in one place, capitalize it in all.

If you need help designing your restaurant menu, we can help. Tomlinson Design & Advertising has been designing menus for over 30 years. Give us a call. #restaurantmenus #michiganmenus #michiganmenudesign #greatrestaurantmenus