If you’re designing your restaurant’s menu for the first time, or redesigning your existing restaurant menu, this guide will teach you the design secrets professional designers use to create menus for the most successful restaurants.
In this guide to restaurant menu design you’ll learn the psychological tricks to create a menu that looks professional and makes you more money.
1. Organize To Control Attention
The way your menu is structured controls the movement of your guests’ eyes as they navigate the menu. A restaurant menu often contains a lot of information. But guests are trying to make a decision quickly.
Organize To Improve Visibility
The less organized your menu, the longer it will take diners to make a choice. By understanding how our brain and eyes work together to process information, we can direct the guests’ attention by organizing the menu.
Our eyes tend to ignore what blends in and focus on what stands out. You can help your customers make quicker decisions by structuring the restaurant menu to make it easier find what they are looking for. Grouping items by likeness under large headers lets them navigate quickly, easily finding the salads or burgers.
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Direct Attention To Features
Using text accents like Bold, Italic and underlined emphasize certain portions of the text. Giving enough white-space between menu items breaks apart large clumps of text giving their eyes somewhere to pause.
You can also use this to your advantage by making profitable dishes easier to find on the menu. Create a box or other type of special design element to direct attention to items you want to stand out.
When designing your menu remember, “if everything is important, then nothing is.” Choose only one or two products from a category to be a feature.
Direct Attention Away
What you have learned can be used to direct the customers’ eyes away from menu elements we don’t want them to focus on. You can bury cheap items by blending them in with larger blocks of text, making them harder to read.
To discourage price comparison you can make prices more subtle. For example, display the price as “5.8” instead of “$5.88.” Make prices a smaller font or a color that doesn’t stand out. You can also be sure prices don’t line up neatly along the page, which would make price scanning way too easy.
2. Short Sensual Descriptions
To sell a dish that excites diners engages their senses. When writing descriptions use touch, taste, smell and sight to excite their imagination.
Would you rather order a “Cheeseburger with lettuce, pickles, and onion” or the “Classic American Cheeseburger featuring a handmade all-beef patty, spilling with ooey-gooey cheese, fresh artisan lettuce, crisp crinkle-cut dill pickles and sweet red onion”?
It is important that your descriptions are visceral and enticing. Make sure to include lots of sensory words:
A good description will stimulate the hunger of your guests and increase the likelihood of an emotion-based rather than price-based decision.
It’s equally important, however, to keep your descriptions short. Short descriptions are more likely to be read. Stick to descriptions of the experience of enjoying the food. Don’t turn it into a long story.
3. Creative Use Of Text and Color
When designing your menu, remember that it is a direct extension of your brand. You want to choose colors and fonts that are consistent with your restaurant’s agreed upon style. Having a strong brand requires consistency.
If you already have promotional materials such as a website, business cards, and signage they should all match the same style. Use the same fonts on your menu.
Make sure to keep font choices easily readable. There are some very outlandish and artistic text styles that are not very easy to read. Amateur designers are tempted to express their creativity by using lots of hard to read fonts. Avoid this temptation! To look professional, keep the most important text on your menu in a font designed for easy reading.
When choosing the colors, keep in mind the “less is more” approach of professional designers. Your menu should be easy to read. It’s not the place to express your wild artistic tastes.
There should be a high amount of tonal contrast between the background color and the text. Think in terms of light and dark for contrast. This will keep the appearance of the text clear when it’s printed.
Colors that you wouldn’t wear together when choosing an outfit don’t work on your menu either. Use neutral colors for most of your menu and only choose one or two max contrast colors.
Bright Pink and Fuchsia
The mood produced by different colors shape your customers' choices:
- Neutral and dulled tones blend in and are also considered calming
- Bright pure colors attract attention
- Cool blues and greens are associated with calmness and can stimulate thirst
- Hot reds and oranges are associated with urgency and can stimulate hunger
4. Reinforce Concepts With Graphics And Photos
Professional Food Pics Only
It’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words. It’s also true that good food photography is difficult to pull off. Unless that food looks so incredibly appetizing when photographed that you could eat it right off the page — abstain completely from adding photographs.
Even the best meatloaf and gravy in the world will have a hard time looking it’s best in an amateur photo. And no, Instagram filters don’t cover up bad photography. They just make your gravy look green.
Use Graphics Wisely
Your restaurant name and logo should be displayed prominently and proudly on your menu. This is your food. And you want them to remember. Associating your restaurant logo with their experience is an important part of forming a memory that can be recalled again through advertising.
It is important to use supporting graphics along with text to highlight specials and push items. Borders, frames, and pinstripes can help you direct the customer’s eye.
To help those with dietary preferences make decisions faster, use pepper icons to express the level of spiciness or green leaves to indicate vegetarian options.
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5. Multiple Menus Create More Opportunities
The Split Menu
Consider splitting your menu up into four:
Splitting out the pages of your menu limits the amount of information your customers are required to process when they sit down. It takes mental effort to reject irrelevant information.
By splitting up the menus you have more opportunities to direct attention to featured items. Remember the design principle “If everything is important then nothing is”. Separate menus can give you a framework to more effectively highlight without distracting your diner with too many options.
Also, it can help your overall sales. Studies have shown that leaving a dessert or beverage menu at the table increases sales. People look at the menu when they’re bored or waiting for their friends to finish eating.
A Menu For Every Format
- Table service printed menu
- Takeout menu
- Online menu and perhaps even an app
- Hanging menu board or digital display
When deciding the style elements and design of your menu, take these different formats into account. Create in a style that works for all of them so they look the same. Consistency across all platforms will strengthen your restaurant brand and show professionalism.
Professional menu designers use a number of tricks to make sure their restaurant clients’ menus look their best.
In this guide you learned how to organize your menu to control the way diners’ eyes move across the page, and to provide short emotive descriptions to make food attractive.
We discussed how colors should be chosen carefully to create a specific mood, and how important good food photography is if you choose to add photographs.
Lastly, we talked about having more than one menu for guests to reduce information overload, and the importance of having a consistent style across all your menu formats.
This guide is part of a free article series teaching entrepreneurs how to start a restaurant. These guides are brought to you by Rezku. Since 2012 Rezku has provided businesses in the hospitality industry with affordable, cutting edge technology to manage better.