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How to Design A Restaurant Menu

If you’re looking for tips to help you create a restaurant menu, we’ve got you covered. With this guide, you’ll learn how to design a restaurant menu that appeals to customers and clearly expresses your restaurant’s brand.

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There is a psychology to designing restaurant menu, and professional graphic designers use these psychological principles when creating menus for their restaurant clients. Whether you decide to make your own restaurant menu or hire a designer, you want to be aware of these key concepts.

Organize Your Menu Into Sections

A restaurant menu generally contains a lot of information. This can make it hard for your guests to know what’s important at a glance. By understanding how our brain and eyes work together to process information, we can direct our guest's attention and make it easier for them to decide what to order.

Our eyes tend to ignore what blends in and focus on what stands out. You can help your customers make quicker decisions by creating a restaurant menu that allows them to easily find what they are looking for. By grouping items by likeness and using text accents like Bold, Italic and underlined, your customers can find the of items they want.

You can also use this technique to make sure they find the items you want them to. Highlight certain items within sections of the menu. Create a box or other type of special design element to point their attention to items that have a good profit margin by making them stand out.

It’s important to be careful when using these techniques, however, because if everything is important, then nothing is. You’ll achieve the desired effect by designing your menu to highlight only what is most important.

The same principle can be used to direct the customers eye away from elements we don’t want them to focus on. To discourage customers from scanning for the cheapest items, consider making prices more subtle by displaying “5.8” instead of “$5.88”. Another technique is to make the prices smaller or in a color that doesn’t stand out. By increasing the challenge of scanning for price, you have a chance to entice the customer with the items you want to sell.


Use Short, But Engaging Descriptions

When crafting the perfect restaurant menu, think about how to describe your food. Would you rather have a “Cheeseburger with lettuce, pickles, and onion” or a “Classic American Cheeseburger featuring a juicy all-beef patty, gooey cheese, fresh lettuce, crinkle-cut pickles and sweet onion”? It is important that your descriptions are visceral and enticing. Make sure to include sensory words like “crunchy”, “savory”, “creamy” etc. You want to capture the imagination of the reader. 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, so that they are actually read, and help your guests reach a quick decision, so your kitchen staff can start making their food.


Color And Text

When thinking about how to design 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. If you already have promotional materials such as a website, business cards, and signage, this is a great place to start when deciding which fonts to use on your menu, because consistency in branding expresses professionalism.

Be sure to keep the text easily readable. There are some very outlandish and artistic text styles that unfortunately are not very easy to read. Be sure to keep the most important text in a basic font designed for easy reading.

When choosing the colors, design your menu with a high level of contrast between the background and the text. This will keep the appearance of the text clear.

The mood produced by different colors can also be used to shape your customer’s choices.

  • Bright colors attract attention.
  • Reds and oranges are associated with urgency and can stimulate hunger.
  • Blues and greens are associated with calmness and can stimulate thirst.
  • Neutral or dull tones blend in and tend to be neutral in their effect, so they are also considered to be calming.

Graphics And Images

Your logo and restaurant name should feature prominently on your restaurant menu. It is also important to use supporting graphics that flag special items, indicating spiciness or vegetarian options. Simple icons, borders, frames, and lines can help direct a customer’s attention to items you want to up-sell.

If you choose to include pictures of food on your menu, do so with careful consideration. No photo is much better than a bad photo. Good food photography is difficult and should be done professionally.


Multiple Menus

Consider splitting your menu up into one for lunch, dinner, drinks and desserts. This limits the amount of information your customers are required to process when deciding what to order. Studies have shown that leaving a dessert or beverage menu at the table increases sales of these items as well.

It’s likely you’ll have a printed menu for tableside and for takeout, an online version, and perhaps even an app. Depending on your type of restaurant, you may also have a large hanging menu behind your POS. When thinking about the design of your menu, take these different formats into account and create them at once, so they look the same. This will strengthen your brand image and show professionalism.

Using the guidelines provided, you now know how to design a restaurant menu that is attractive, easy to read and supports your restaurant brand. Happy menu designing!

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