Print My Menu are Australia's menu printing and design specialists. We can design and print any menu imaginable. In addition to our free ready-made takeaway menu templates, Print My Menu provide the following guide to good menu design. It is full or great hints and tips and will assist you in creating a fantastic looking menu to attract more customers and maximise your restaurant’s profit.
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Guide to Good Menu Design
Menu Design 101: Where do I start?
Designing a menu can be a tricky task for any restaurant or café. From menu items, course options, layout, colours and fonts, to descriptions, messaging and pricing. So where do you start?
- Start by listing out your courses/menu headings. Do you offer entrees, mains and desserts? What about appetisers, soups, salads, sides or beverages? Consider including options for ingredient substitutions, vegan/vegetarian options and kids meals.
- List out your dishes and their descriptions. Whether you include detailed descriptions or not is entirely up to you. A good compromise is achieved by using descriptive titles in an effort to eliminate long-winded explanations and save valuable space.
- Make sure you know which dishes on your menu are suitable for people with food allergies, or those that require gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian options. Catering to these customers and identifying specialty dishes on your menu can help to increase your customer base.
- Pricing. In order to price your menu properly, take into consideration your kitchen costs, staffing and operational costs, and importantly your competitor’s prices. Be fair to yourself and to your customers. Consider developing a specials menu in addition to your regular menu, to showcase seasonal produce.
Once you have your menu items, course headings and pricing mapped out, you can begin to design the layout and engineer the composition of your menu. Be sure to use legible fonts in sizes that are customer friendly and importantly avoid clutter! All information and images need to be relevant to your theme.
Menu Design 102: Menu Engineering
Also known as Menu Psychology, this is the deliberate and strategic construction of menus to maximise a restaurant’s profit. Focussing on composition and messaging, the aim is to maximise your restaurant’s turnover by subconsciously encouraging customer purchases. Although it may sound like a dark art, Menu Engineering forms a very important basis for good menu design, and can make a huge difference to your bottom line.
Your menu is one of the most powerful tools for marketing your restaurant. However, many restaurant owners design their menu solely from an appearance and functional perspective. Menu engineering deals with arranging the items on the menu so that they align with customer psychology and purchasing behaviours. Menu engineering helps restaurant owners put their best products in the most eye-catching and visible places on their menu.
Highlight key items
Start with a tour through your existing menu and select your popular dishes. To engineer your new menu for maximum profits, ask yourself these questions:
- What's your signature dish? Focus on your signature dishes and placing them in prime spots. Put your name in the dish title. Customers will look for them, make them easy to find.
- What are your most popular dishes? You know your best-sellers and you would be wise not to change them. Highlight/recommend them on your menu so new customers can discover them too.
- What are your customers asking for? If gluten-free is commonly requested then identify gluten-free items on your menu. Make everything easy for your customers.
- What season is it? Highlight dishes made with local, seasonal produce. Not only are seasonal dishes enticing, they often cost far less to produce than non-seasonal dishes.
Here are some proven strategies:
- Page positioning is everything. On a tri-fold A4 menu customers tend to look at the centre panel first. On a single-page A4 menu, people tend to look at the top right hand corner first. These are great places to highlight your key and high-profit dishes.
- Categorise dishes in the order that customers eat them. Desserts, wines, breakfast, lunch, and specials deserve separate menus.
- Within each course/category you should place your higher priced dishes in the centre and never end a category with the most expensive dish.
- Highlight menu items that deserve extra attention: popular dishes, customer favourites, chef’s recommendations, or newly added items. Use eye-catching yet complementary colours and fonts. Boxes, borders and graphics are also great strategies for showcasing.
Write descriptions that entice your customers to order. Tempt your customers and tantalise their tastebuds. Don’t get too wordy, but an extra adjective or two can do wonders.
Too many options confuse
Menus exceeding four (4) pages can confuse customers and this distracts them from making a purchase. You should focus your menu on the dishes you do best. Keep the classics, signature dishes and popular dishes, include some seasonal offerings, and remove any underperformers.
If you need to have a long list of dishes, consider splitting the menu into various courses so you’re your customers can focus on their upcoming selection at any one time.
Menu Design 103: Consistent Theming
How do your customers feel when they dine in your restaurant?
Your restaurant’s theme must be represented in your menu as it is an extension of your brand. If someone sees your menu online or in print, they should get a sense of what your restaurant, food and flavours will be like, too. If your restaurant interior is sleek and modern, design your menu in a simple, clean and understated style. Fine dining restaurants might design a black and white menu with script fonts. Italian Pizzerias favour warm colours and fun fonts. Asian restaurants are typically bright and vibrant.
How many menus?
List all of the menus you want designed. It is recommended to have a separate menu for each service plus a wine list, specials menu, desserts, and of course a takeaway menu. Each of these will exhibit a different page size and layout. Defining your menus in advance saves you time and enables your design and feel to be consistent across each.
The colours you choose for your theme have a significant impact on your customer’s dining experience. Bright red and orange designs give an impression of spicy entrees and punchy flavours. Cool blues and greens bring customers into a calmer frame of mind and an expectation of subtle flavours with multi-faceted dishes. Black and white is a good choice for classic and consistent fine dining. Experiment with background hues that compliment your primary colour choices.
Diners are more sensitive to inconsistencies than you might expect. Scratched-out prices, spelling mistakes, and cluttered designs can distract customers and leave them with a poor impression of your restaurant. Pay attention to details when you create your menu, use spell-check, and get second opinions to see how it looks in print and on tables. Your goal is to make it as easy as possible for your customers to read.
Menu Design 104: Writing Copy
Appetites are created from great item descriptions. You need to write them as enticing as possible. Item titles and descriptions need to get customer mouths watering and wallets opening.
Write for your audience
Who is your customer base? If you mostly cater to families then your menu should be written clearly and in a concise style that is easy-to-understand for all ages. If you cater to a more upmarket customer base then write your menu in a more sophisticated style. For example, "appetisers" can become "hors d'oeuvres".
Write for your theme
Customers want to eat at your restaurant because of the theme and atmosphere that you have created. Make sure to give them what they want. Italian restaurants need to name their dishes accordingly: “Braciola di Maiale” instead of “Crumbed Pork Chop”. Japanese cuisine is another example: “Ebi don” instead of “Prawns with Rice”. Using traditional and regional names for your dishes will add favourably to the atmosphere and overall dining experience.
Write for clarity
Reading your menu should not be a challenge. Too much clutter or hard-to-read fonts will confuse and frustrate your patrons. Keep the design simple and avoid using jargon, especially if you are designing a café menu. Simple, tantalising titles work best.
Menu Design 105: Price Design
This lesson is not intended to guide you in your price-setting, but instead help you design the menu so as to remove a customer’s resistance to spending. There are proven strategies for displaying prices that contribute to profitability.
A column of prices down the right side of a menu is a common practice. While this appears to be a good method for increasing your menu’s readability, unfortunately it also allows your prices to be scanned quickly, in turn emphasising pricing as a factor in a diner’s decision. If you are a fine dining restaurant then a better strategy might be to list your prices at the end of dish’s title to avoid subconscious price comparison.
Dollar sign or not?
It has been statistically proven that removing the dollar sign from your prices will help to increase sales. If it is not a critical design factor to include the dollar sign then consider removing it. Not only can it help with customer behaviour but it also makes the menu look cleaner and less cluttered.
$10.00 or $9.95?
While the actual cash difference is miniscule, studies clearly show customers think otherwise.
A good rule of thumb is:
- for restaurants where dishes cost more than $25 then it is better to round prices up to the nearest dollar. This avoids ‘tricking’ your customers, which can lead to disgruntled diners; and
- for restaurants that cater to a middle class demographic where dishes are generally under $25, then round down your price to .90 or .95 (.99 is just insulting). Small price differences can make lasting impressions in a customer’s subconscious. This concept is further exacerbated the less a dish costs and so can really be used effectively on dessert menus where prices are low and diners are questioning whether or not to eat another dish.
If a dish isn’t selling, consider lowering your price or removing it from the menu completely. If you feel it is misunderstood and can be a future best-seller then you might consider relocating it on your menu into a more noticeable location or highlight it with different colours, fonts or graphics.
Menu Design 106: Kids Menu Design
When designing your menus you need to put effort into creating an entertaining and enticing kids menu (or sub-section of the main menu) as well. Parents will recognise and appreciate your efforts and ultimately they pay the bill. If you decide to forego a separate kids menu and instead include kids’ meal options on your main menu then it's a good idea to have a kid’s activity pack to keep them entertained.
The approach to kids’ meal options is changing rapidly. No longer are chicken nuggets a guaranteed winner with parents. You need to offer healthier options to suit more tastes.
Your customers may already ask for reduced-in-size mains for their children, so listen to what they are telling you. The simplest approach to kids’ meal options is to assess which of your adult meals would be suitable if served up in a smaller portion.
Fun activities = entertained kids = happy parents
The goal of a kids menu should be to entertain your tiny customers and give parents a chance to enjoy the restaurant atmosphere. Entertainment activities can include games, puzzles, mazes, riddles, word-search, or colouring-in.
Activities need to be appropriate for children of all ages under 12, including pre-readers, and designs should be gender neutral. If you include meal options on the kids menu, always use a large sans-serif font that is easily legible. Silly fonts, cartoon fonts, or kids’ handwriting fonts are not the best choice. Colouring-in activities should always be printed on crayon-friendly paper.