December 13, 2017

Menu design best practices

Colorado culinary arts students gain the skills they need for a career in preparing fantastic food on a daily basis. While great dishes are the cornerstone of any successful restaurant, food truck or catering service, there’s a lot more that goes into developing a growing business. The look and atmosphere of an establishment also count, and so does the appearance of the menu.

A menu goes beyond listing the available entrees and beverages, making a vital first impression on patrons and guiding them through their dining experience. Writing and designing an appealing document can end up having a big impact on the future of your business, so give it careful thought. When putting together a menu, keep the following tips in mind:

Communicate with customers through typography

“Your choice of type is a big part of how your menu connects with guests.”

It may seem like a minor detail, but your choice of type is a big part of how your menu connects with guests. Pick a font that suits the restaurant’s style. For instance, an Old English font suggests an eatery is proud of its deep connection to tradition, while a bold sans serif font gives a sense of modernity and experimentation.

Other typographical choices could have psychological effects on how customers scan the menu and make their selections. A Cornell University study published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management suggested that diners are likely to spend more when restaurants print their menus without any dollar signs. Proprietors want to direct their guests’ attention to all the delightful items on offer, not the bill.

Strategically add color and images

Eye-catching colors and photographs can make a menu more visually engaging, but think carefully about how you employ these elements. Pick shades that fit the restaurant’s brand and experience. Understated, subtle hues are a better fit for an elegant dining room, while bright, bold colors are appropriate for a more festive environment.

Images require even more consideration. Professionally photographed, beautiful images of your signature items can capture the interest of customers. On the other hand, a poorly lit or composed picture can backfire, and you risk misrepresenting your offerings if you use stock photography.

Layout matters

The arrangement of items on the menu guides the eyes of patrons and influences their decision-making. By making it easy to see all the options for appetizers and entrees, you encourage them to make the selection that best fits their personal tastes. Spotlight signature dishes by placing them closer to the top of the page, and draw attention to specials by presenting them on the back of the menu.

When guests are first settling in, you want them to think about purchasing appetizers and beverages, not saving room for dessert. That’s why Thrillist advised presenting the options for an after-dinner treat on a separate card. Wait until the end of the meal to lay out an array of options, preferably including the five Cs of coffee, chocolate, citrus, caramel and cheesecake.

The menu helps set the mood for an evening out.A menu helps to set the mood for an evening out.

Set your establishment apart

The most important part of designing a menu is tying it closely to a restaurant’s individual identity and making it stand out from the competition. Examining the menus at some nearby businesses that have similar cuisine or offer the vibe you’re aiming for can set you on the right track. From there, adding distinctive touches to the type, organization and colors of your menu will help you to establish your own brand.

Students in culinary academy gain advanced cooking skills. However, attention to factors like menu design can also be important to finding success in the restaurant industry.