How to Design an Effective Restaurant Menu

Menu Design Basics

••• An effective restaurant menu should reflect the concept of the restaurant. Ivan Prole

An effective restaurant menu mixes a well-planned layout, well-written descriptions and correct pricing for food cost ration. Good menus avoid crowded layouts overly wordy descriptions and unnecessary graphics. Menu items should reflect your restaurant’s theme. Updating your restaurant menu is also important to keep on top of food costs and food trends.

Menu Basics

The ideal restaurant menu offers a balance of classic dishes and fresh food trends, while balancing the right food cost to maintain and increase profits. Before you begin writing anything you first need to decide which items to offer on your restaurant menu. A restaurant menu design is a reflection of a restaurant’s concept and intended audience.

Menu Pricing

Once you’ve decided on what foods you will offer, do the math for the correct food cost. Along with food cost, portion control is another important factor to help price your menu correctly. Another way to ensure a profit is to create a balance of expensive and inexpensive items and limiting the use of market price items, which have the greatest fluctuation in prices. Read more about how to price your restaurant menu.

Menu Layout

A restaurant menu layout is a reflection of the restaurant itself. Restaurant menu designs, whether formal, casual or playful, should match your restaurant concept, location, and theme. Your menu font and color scheme should reflect your restaurant theme. For example, if you are opening an Italian restaurant with an emphasis on Tuscan cuisine, muted colors such as yellow, coral, sage green and brick red, would all compliment a menu layout. These same colors would look out of place on the menu of a Mexican restaurant or a French café.

The same is true for the font. A French bistro may have a classic script font or simple plain font, while a sports bar or other casual restaurant might have a less formal or playful font. Beware of choosing a font that is hard to read or too small.

Menu Descriptions

A menu description should be vivid and enticing- enough to make a guest’s mouth water. Always explain what are the major ingredients are in a particular dish, and use ethnic names if they fit, to add a bit of authentic flair to the menu description. A good rule of thumb when writing the descriptions of your menu items is to keep it short and simple.

Consider Local Foods

Using local produce allows you to add variety to your restaurant menu, changing it with the seasons and is a good marketing tool. Today, using local foods on your restaurant menu goes beyond just fruits and vegetables. It can refer to sustainable beef and seafood, artisan foods, homemade desserts, or hyper-local restaurant gardens. Vegetables and fruits are the original “local foods” not only does buying local produce help your local economy, the food usually tastes and looks better than those grown in larger corporation farms.

Keep Your Restaurant Kitchen in Mind

Generally, the size of your restaurant will dictate how large your menu is. The bigger the kitchen, the more menu items you can offer. If you try to offer a large and complex menu out of a tiny commercial kitchen (which can be done, though it isn’t easy) you may run into serious problems during lunch and dinner rushes. Your restaurant kitchen should be between 15-25% of the total space in your restaurant. Any smaller and you run the risk of limiting how much what you can serve during a shift. Any larger and you are wasting prime real estate that could be used for customer seating.