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9 Useful Tips for Restaurant Menu Design

Your menu is your most effective advertising tool, and getting it right can mean higher profits and more satisfied customers. The location of your dishes on the page, the colours and the descriptions all directly affect how successfully your dishes will sell, so it’s time to start paying attention to the little details. 

1. Emphasise Certain Items 

You have the power to draw the customer’s eyes to particular dishes you want to showcase. Using ‘eye magnets’, such as boxes, bold text and shading, you can make sure your special dishes stand out, sell more and communicate to the customer that these dishes are worth ordering.

2. Smart Use of Colour

Studies on the psychological effects of colours show that warm colours, like red and orange, can stimulate appetite. Red is a colour often found in food logos and draws in attention, while orange is lively and makes people feel comfortable - and most importantly, they both make people hungry.  

3. Be Descriptive

Research has shown that the description of a dish on the menu will affect how satisfied customers think they are after their meal. Using sensory descriptions and producing a well executed dish can enhance customer experience, and using cultural and sensory descriptions, like ‘Cajun’ and ‘succulent’ can increase sales by up to 28% according to a study.

4. Bury the Prices

To stop the prices on your menu from being the main focus of the customer, it’s a good idea to avoid putting them in an orderly column where it’s easy to scan and compare the prices of dishes. Adding the prices onto the end of your descriptions makes them less conspicuous, and by removing the currency sign too your customers are less likely to associate the price with the negativity of spending. 

5. Place Dishes According to Price

If the first prominent dish on your menu is the most expensive, this makes the other dishes appear as if they are better value, even if they are still costly. By placing inexpensive dishes together at the bottom of your menu, these dishes will appear more ‘low rate’ to customers and encourage them to order from further up your menu. 

6. The Right Choices

Having too many choices on your menu only hinders a customer’s decision making, and can deter them from choosing to eat at your restaurant. Contrary to popular belief, customers prefer a smaller variety of dishes rather than a huge menu. Your dishes should reflect the personality of your restaurant so the customer understands your identity as soon as they see their options. Generally the suggested number of dishes for a restaurant is around six for each course. You can find inspiration for new dishes everywhere, whether that's down your local market for fresh produce or even using Pinterest and Instagram.

Having a large menu also means it’s more likely that you will waste more produce as you’ll need more ingredients, and the dishes will not always sell.

A photo posted by @summersaltandsoda on

7. Layout

It’s generally thought that menus have a ‘sweet spot’ where diner’s eyes are first drawn, and they begin reading the menu. According to research, this is thought to be on the right, in the top half. This means your showcase items should go in this area to get the most attention and help you sell more of your best dishes. 

8. Bracketing

Offering customers small and large options for dishes gives them the impression that they are getting a better value dish for the smaller option, even without an indication of size. In fact, the smaller dish is the portion size and price you would have been intending to serve normally. 

9. Use Photos Sparingly

Less is more when it comes to using photos of your dishes and you don’t want to create an aesthetic that is similar to that of a junk mail leaflet, as this will only cheapen the look of your menu. Images of your dishes are best left to the imagination of the customer, as you can’t guarantee that the same image will appeal to everyone in the same way, and you might be putting off more customers than you’d expect. If communicating the personality of your restaurant through imagery is what you want to go for, consider using illustrations to do this instead for a quirky look.

For more advice on your restaurant, check out these blogs...
Table-Turning - Do You Do It?
How to Choose a Restaurant Name

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