Tips For Writing Your Restaurant Menu

Pricing, Design, and Description

Woman reading bar menu
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A restaurant menu is more than just a list of food with prices. It is a reflection of your restaurant style and concept. A restaurant menu is not something to be hastily written up, but rather an important marketing tool that should be carefully considered.

There are three main parts of designing a restaurant menu: description, layout, and pricing. Descriptions on your menu should be interesting without being too complicated to understand (unless your a fine dining restaurant limit terms like deconstructed or toothsome—just don't use that one ever—off the menu).

As you get ready to design your menu, keep in mind things like color, photographs, font style and size, and the general layout of different courses. Pricing your menu should food cost to around 30%. You will also want to stay in line with competitors who have a similiar type of restaurant. Note this does not mean that you need to be cheaper than your competitors; just around the same price points.

Restaurant Menu Description

A good rule of thumb when writing the descriptions of your menu items is to keep it short and simple. But the 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.

Restaurant Menu Design

A restaurant menu design, or layout, is a reflection of the restaurant itself. Restaurant menu layouts and colors, whether formal, casual or playful, should match your restaurant concept, location or theme. Your menu font and color scheme should reflect your restaurant theme. For example, if you are opening a Mexican themed restaurant, vibrant colors such as red, turquoise, purple and green would be good choices for a menu. These same colors would look out of place on the menu of a French bistro or Italian restaurant.

Ditto 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.

Restaurant Menu Pricing

Food cost and portion control are two ways to help price your menu correctly, so you make a profit but be careful not to price yourself out of the local market. 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.

Specialty Restaurant Menus

Certain occasions such as holidays or local festivals is a good time to put together a specialty menu. Mother’s Day is a prime example of when to use a specialty menu instead of or in addition to your regular restaurant menu. Specialty menus and prix fixe menus allow you to expand your regular dining selection while still maintaining control over cost and inventory.

Healthy Menus Items

An increasingly important aspect of any menu offering are healthy choices. Consumers consistently cite healthy menu options as an influencer in their decisions on where to eat. Offer a menu that goes beyond meat, potato, and a side of steamed vegetable will help set your restaurant catering business apart from the pack. Healthy foods like whole grains, a variety of vegetables, and fresh seafood are a good way to showcase your robust culinary skills. Does that mean you should take fried fish and mozzarella sticks off your appetizer menu?

Not at all. But you should consider adding low-fat, low-calorie options like lean cuts of beef, pork, poultry, or fish as well as smaller portion sizes (at smaller prices).

Bottom Line

Writing a menu isn't just coming up with a list of food with prices. It should be a reflection of your restaurant concept, with enough variety to appeal to a wide array of customers while still keeping food cost and price points in mind. It's important to take time to draft menu descriptions that resonate with customers and create a design that is appealing to the eye and easy to navigate.