Creating an appealing and enticing restaurant menu is crucial to running a successful restaurant business. The menu is one of the most important marketing materials for restaurants, acting as the first impression for potential diners. Beyond simply listing dishes, an artfully designed menu has the power to draw in customers, convey your restaurant’s culinary style and values, and encourage diners to order more items and higher profit dishes.
Follow these top tips to craft a mouthwatering and effective menu that will have customers eagerly anticipating their dining experience.
Focus on Specials and Signatures
Highlight signature dishes and daily specials prominently on the menu. Place these items in premium positions at the top of menu sections or call them out in an eye-catching specials box. When customers see a dish described as your “renowned garlic mussels” or “award-winning chilli,”, they are enticed to order something unique and memorable. Specials also portray your dishes as freshly prepared and encourage repeat visits to experience frequently changing options.
Carefully consider how to categorise and group menu items. Organise by categories like appetisers, sandwiches, entrées, sides and desserts. Place higher profit items at the top and lower cost items toward the bottom within sections. Position kids, seniors and other discounted items in less prominent spots. Be strategic with item descriptions and make lower-profit foods sound basic while highlighting premium ingredients and preparation for higher-priced options.
Alignment and Layout Are Key
Pay close attention to the layout and alignment of menu items and pricing. Place prices on the right side of the menu and align prices vertically for easy scanning. Leave ample white space between sections as densely packed menus are difficult to read. Choose fonts that are clean and simple with adequate spacing between lines and paragraphs. Create a hierarchy using font sizes, styles and weights to distinguish sections. Use Adobe’s restaurant design templates if you’re struggling with this.
Photos and Graphics Enhance Appeal
Enticing photos of your beautifully presented signature dishes can help diners imagine their meal and get excited to order. Try showcasing your most photogenic items. Infographics like a map of wine regions can add helpful context. Simple but appealing graphics like borders, dividers and icons break up dense text. Just be sure that any highly stylised photos match the food you actually serve, and graphics don’t clutter the menu. Clean and minimal often works best.
Refresh and Update Frequently
Review and revise your menu regularly to keep offerings updated in tune with the seasons and your latest culinary inspirations. Introduce additional daily and weekly specials. Consider new menu inserts spotlighting seasonal best-sellers like refreshing summer salads and hearty winter stews. Limited-time offerings pique interest by creating excitement around what’s new. Staying on trend with the latest food styles and ingredients also keeps the menu enticing for repeat customers.
Showcase Specialty Drinks
The beverage menu represents a prime opportunity to showcase your bartending skills and locally sourced ingredients. Create tempting descriptions of seasonal cocktail specialities, craft beers on tap, wines by the glass and non-alcoholic creations. Focus on profit-driving drinks you want to promote.
Handcrafted beverages complementing the cuisine also set the right tone for a memorable dining experience. For convenience, repeating speciality cocktails within food sections encourages pairing.
Sell the Story
Today’s diners crave an experience and connection to their food. Weave in your restaurant’s story and values throughout the menu with clever names and engaging descriptions that emphasise your farm-to-table suppliers, cooking techniques and secret family recipes.
Share your commitment to fresh and local ingredients. A thoughtful narrative helps you stand out from competitors and forges an emotional bond that earns loyalty.
There should never be any question about what the price is for each dish. List costs next to each menu item and again in summary format at the bottom of sections. Make sure pricing is clear for special packages and platter combinations, too. For takeaways, show packaging surcharges and delivery fees upfront so customers can easily estimate the total cost as they order.
Test, Tweak and Refresh
Solicit feedback on menu drafts from managers, chefs and trusted regulars before rolling out. Be open to constructive criticism to identify confusing categories or poorly described dishes. Thoroughly QA all information, including prices. Proofread carefully for typos which undermine professionalism. Finally, commit to regularly reviewing the menu and sales velocity of each dish. Rotate in new options and refine descriptions based on customer preferences. A menu is never truly “done” but is always a work in progress.
With a carefully crafted menu and mouthwatering dish descriptions, you guide diners on an appetising journey from appetisers through to desserts. A menu designed utilising strategies like strategic formatting, descriptive language and recommended pairings compels customers to order profitable dishes, beverages and add-ons. Treat menu planning as the critical sales and marketing activity that it is, and you will reap rewards with happy patrons and a thriving restaurant business.