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How to Design a Restaurant Menu

How to Design a Restaurant Menu

Whether you are opening a brand new restaurant or trying to rebrand a current one, your menu is one of the most important details and responsibilities. While the right menu can both attract and entice customers, the wrong menu can turn people off to your restaurant, and may dissuade them from coming again or recommending your bistro. 

As you begin to create dishes and brainstorm about menu creation, here are some tips to keep in mind. Knowing how to design a restaurant menu, including what things to avoid during the creative process, can help you to woo foodies and gastronomy lovers. 

Incorporate Visual Strategies

Putting what you will actually serve in terms of food for the moment, make sure that your menu incorporates visual strategies. Visual strategies refer to strategies that are designed to attract a menu reader’s focus to a particular part of the menu, and that take into account natural eye-scanning patterns. For example, consider:

·  How Consumers Read Menus. While older research indicated that most consumers’ eyes went to the bottom right hand area of a menu first, newer research suggests that most consumers read menus as they would a book, beginning at the top left and working their way down the page, and then onto a second or third column (if existent). This challenges the notion that the restaurant’s most profitable dishes should always be listed last. 

 ·  Grouping. The human mind is talented at grouping, which means that humans categorize similar things in their brain for organization’s sake (i.e. dogs, cats, giraffes, bears, etc. are all grouped as four-legged animals). The grouping concept should be applied to a menu, as this helps customers easily find exactly what they are looking for. For example, have separate sections for meat dishes, vegetarian options, desserts, pizza, and gluten free dishes, amongst any others you plan to incorporate. 

·  Readability. Another thing that will help your customer is by creating a menu that is readable, which does not just refer to the size and font of text that you choose. You should also make sure that your menu is simple (too many things on the menu make it overwhelming); uses images and graphics sparingly; uses colors appropriately or not at all; and is limited to a single page when possible. Prioritize typography, making sure it is legible, and consider using different fonts or sizes where necessary to highlight categories of food or certain dishes. 

The Menu: How to Plan What You Are Going to Serve & Present It 

You can’t design a menu if you aren’t sure what dishes to put on it! In most cases, more is less, and most restaurants today are focusing on niche offerings rather than trying to do it all. Some niche food themes that are huge today include:

  • Veganism;
  • Vegetarianism;
  • Farm-to-table;
  • Gluten-free/grain-free;
  • Paleo;
  • Butcher-to-table; and
  • Tapas and small plates.

Of course, whatever food trend you decide to focus on is based on what you love to cook, your own values, and the area you live in and the culture you are a part of. That being said, you should make sure that your menu has at least one-to-two vegetarian or vegan options, and that gluten- and grain-free are options for those with allergies or food preferences. 

As you create your menu, get creative with your dish or category names, and try to incorporate a general theme. A great example is River & Woods, a restaurant located in Boulder, Colorado. Staying true to their namesake, menu categories are divided by The Woodlands (duck, mushrooms, etc.), The Rivers (trout and oysters), The High Plains (meatloaf, gnocchi, shortribs), The Coasts (calamari), and The Farms and Fields (an array of salads and local selections). Each category is unique, only offers a few things, and is very easy to navigate - the hardest part is choosing which option sounds most delicious! 

Create Your Perfect Restaurant Menu Today

Designing a perfect restaurant menu takes creativity, originality, and work! If you don’t have design experience yourself but know what you want to serve, working with a professional graphic artist is advised. Remember to be flexible, and that you may need to make adjustments to your menu over time. One of the best ways to judge how your menu is faring is to ask for customer feedback - what do customers like, and what would they change? Remember, while the restaurant may be your project, what matters most is how people feel about your food and the restaurant experience. Have fun in creating your menu, consider taking a few risks, and keep things simple!


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