A tablet and a smartphone with a beautiful digital QR code menu

How to Create a Great Restaurant Menu? [A Complete Guide]

Written By Iram Ghafoor | March 18, 2021

Restaurants Includes coffee shop, cafeteria, pub, and any others using menus.


Am I ready to launch a new menu?” 


“How do I create a menu that speaks volumes? What if customers don’t like it?” 


“What should I include in my restaurant menu that makes it unique from my competition?”


Do you lie awake at night, asking yourself the same questions? 


Creating a menu from scratch is one of the scariest things for any business owner. Yet, designing your business’ new menu should be fun. A little planning and you can create a menu of your DREAMS. 


So, let us help you design your new, unique, memorable menu. Ready?


Compare Competitions


You want a menu that stands out from your competition, right? 


So, check out your competition. Look at their menus and find out how you can keep your business’ unique and with an authentic soul. 


For this, consider the following questions. 


  • How can I make my menu different from others? 
  • What menu items are like my competitors? Do I offer something unique? 
  • How can I price better my menu products without losing the customer?


Start with Planning Ahead

 

You need to plan before you may attempt to create a menu. It is an important step to ensure everything is well-planned and organized. 

 

So, list everything down, including: 


  • All your menu products 
  • Prices on your menu products 
  • How you want to break the menu into sections 
  • The color theme(s) 
  • How are you going to describe each product (titles, descriptions, and/or visuals)?
  • What medium do you want to use (paper menu, chalkboard menu, scannable menu, or a digital menu)?
  • Overall composition (fonts, margins, spacing, etc.). You may want to get a few mock-ups. 
  • Decide on the final layout and start designing your menu. 


Carefully Consider the Design


Color 


Color has an impact! Colors communicate and can influence actions.

Many studies emphasize the association of colors with perception. Blue, for instance, is a color of trust and peace. Green reminds of renewal and freshness. Yellow promotes optimism and joy. 


Your menu should have the right color(s) to influence the customers. You can use color psychology to adapt to the cultural aspects of your customers. For instance, orange reflects happiness, health, and courage in China and it’s a color of fire in India. Blue, as a sign of good health, may stimulate the appetite.



You also want to make sure that the menu color resonates with the specific color of your brand.


Use of Whitespace


If you think that putting more items on your menu will appeal to customers, you should think again. 

Inserting too many items on the menu may risk losing the reader’s interest. It makes your menu look complicated and may frustrate the customers. 

Thus, make sure to use whitespace to avoid dense text and make your menu look cleaner. Whitespaces drive the attention of yours readers and in turns increase your sales. 


Pictograms/tags


Tags serve the purpose! Think of those stars, indicating five-star hotels and three-star Michelin restaurants. And let’s not forget those unique icons on social media that let users express various reactions. 

You can also use tags in your menu to create a positive brand image in the eyes of your customers. For instance, you may add a gluten-free tag next to a dish to state that the dish does not contain any gluten.



But, we don’t recommend overdoing tags. Use them with parsimony!


Typography


Typography can be the window into your restaurant’s environment, kitchen, and culture. 

 

You need to choose fonts, letters, and size, etc., that are comfortable to read. For instance, colorful fonts may work great for kids. Whereas large fonts may help older people. 

 

In short, items on your menu should be readable for your customers.

 

You can ensure this by:


  • Considering the age of customers.
  • Keeping the proper lighting in your restaurant, coffee shop, or bar. 
  • Having a balanced letter size and proper spacing. 
  • Choosing a proper background and letter colors. 


Adding Menu Items 


Break into Sections 

 

Make it easy for your customers to find the menu items by organizing them into sections, such as, but not limited to:


  • Appetizers
  • Tapas
  • Entrées
  • Main Dishes
  • Salads
  • Desserts
  • Beverages
  • Wines
  • Cocktails

 

Have sections clearly identified with bold headings, borders, or boxes. You can also highlight special dishes with a star. 

 

Adding sections will make your menu more logical and attractive to customers. It also speeds up the order taking process, ensuring a better customer experience. 


Products Description


“What’s different about this dish?”. Every customer wants to know this when making a decision. After all, customers want the best experience when it comes to trying a new dish or beverage. 


Research by the University of Illinois shows that words on a menu can influence the diners. Appealing and imaginative words on a menu can encourage customers to pay up to 27% more. . 


So, make sure to craft MOUTHWATERING descriptions by:


  • Crafting creative names for dishes and beverages can have an impact. For instance, with local geography or very out-of-the box names, such as ‘Tony’s Pizza’, ‘'New York New York', or 'Alinea'
  • Using natural, desirable, promising words that show credibility and make the customer buy a dish. 
  • Concisely describing what is in a dish with a bit of authentic, curious flair. 
  • Playing around with short and long sentences to find the perfect combination. 
  • Avoiding using superlatives to keep the reader from doubting authenticity. Use light adjectives. 
  • Always be cautious of the length of the description. You don’t want to lose readers’ interest. 
  • Mentioning a brief description of the origin of products. Customers pay attention to this. 
  • Including references to allergens each dish may contain. This way people can enjoy a nice dining experience without fear of having an allergic reaction.  


Images


One picture is worth a thousand words,” they say.


Yet, many restaurants overlook this important sales tactic and don’t add pictures of food to the menu.  

Adding alluring and sophisticated photographs of your dishes help boost sales. Make sure to add images that convey emotions and whet the appetite.

Limitations with the traditional paper menu, chalkboard menu or scannable PDF menu are various. For instance, showing an image for each item makes the menu look complicated. 

But the new digital menus come in handy here. They allow you to add a unique, high-quality picture with each menu item in one click to help attract more customers. 

With QR code menus, such as Zimenu, you can remove a dish from the menu or add a picture, tags, and description to a new menu item. This within a few seconds using your smartphone. 


Drink Pairing 


Use your knowledge to pair the main dish with premium beverage flavors either on the actual dish in question or on the beverage menu. It reminds customers to complement their food by adding a little more flavor to it. Thus, convincing them to spend a little bit more for an experience beyond their expectations, and helping you upsell. 

They’ll also be thankful to you for helping them discover their new favorite combo. 


Highlight Some Items


What is a unique way to draw attention to certain choices?

 

Highlight that specific menu item!

 

You can achieve this by adding a box around certain new, high margin, or local menu items. But, you don’t want to overdo and make it look messy. 

 

Go easy. You can effectively do it by boxing one in eight or ten choices.


General Menu Design Tips


Personalize Your Menus 


Don’t make the mistake to have only one menu for all customers. Bring a personal touch to your menu by creating many menus for different age groups and customers’ tastes. 


Plan ahead and have menus that serve your customers' expectations! This allows good customer relationships and make them return for more. It also helps increase your revenues.


So, you may add a variety of menus, depending on your business model and target audience. A few examples include: 


  • “A La Carte” Menu- A menu that lists all the items the restaurant can provide. Each item is usually sold independently of other items. 
  • “Menu du Jour”- A menu that changes daily, depending upon what’s available on that day.
  • ”Combo” Menu- A combination menu that offers choices of appetizers, entrées, and desserts at a fixed total price. 
  • Cycle Menu- Comes with repeat options over a specific period of time. 
  • Static Menu- A large menu divided into categories. 
  • Children’s Menu- Limited choices for children only- with an alluring design.
  • Desserts Menu- Lists only desserts. It can be an a la carte, de jour, or cycle menu. 
  • Beverages Menu- Includes both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. 
  • Cocktails Menu- Sells specific types of beverages, such as a mix of liquors, soft drinks, and other flavors. 
  • Testing Menu- A collection of several dishes in small portions, serving as a single meal. 
  • Vegans Menu- Includes only vegan food choices. 
  • Gluten-free Menu- A menu with food choices that exclude gluten. 
  • Wines Menu- Lists only wine selections.  
  • Seasonal Menu- A collection of only seasonal items. 


Language


Imagine, you are sitting in a local restaurant in Italy. You have the menu, but you don’t understand a word of what’s written on it. 

Frustrating, right?


If your business attracts tourists speaking different languages, it’s good to have your menu in many languages. It makes it easy and comfortable for your customers to read the menu items, their descriptions, and order what they find delicious. 

Digital menus are also the best bets for this feature as most of them allow you to design a menu in many languages. Your customers can choose the language they speak with just one click and make choices more easily. 


Pricing Style 


You want to display prices in a way that encourages customers to spend. 

"A la carte" pricing shows prices with each item, and is the recommended style. Unlike, column pricing, which shows prices against each item in a separate column. You may also go with the fixed pricing method (pricing a pre-selected list of dishes at a fixed rate), depending on the menu items.  

 

If you want to charge more for a specific item than your competitor, you should justify the reason behind it. Like mentioning a rare ingredient added to the dish. 

 

Moreover, use “psychological pricing” to encourage more purchases. For instance, research shows that prices ending with 9, such as 9.99 or 19.99 signify value but will still be perceived as cheaper as it really is. 


Don’t Use Currency Sign 


You should avoid using the currency signs, such as “$” “£” and “€” etc., when mentioning prices for each menu item. 

 

A report by Cornell University shows a significant increase in sales when the dollar sign was removed with prices.

 

The symbols subconsciously lead the customer to focus more on prices that may harm sales. Food establishments today are learning it, so they are no longer putting currency signs on the menu items prices. 


Readability 


Not only descriptions, but your whole menu should be readable. The readability depends on the media you use. Reading the menu on a PDF has not the same appeal as reading it in a digital format such as the format you can find HERE

 

So, keep the design simple to read. Use language that is vivid and crisp. Be concise. Keep the menu simple and appealing. Avoid clutter. It is a good idea to consider your target audience and, as we mentioned above, adapt the style of the menu to them. 

 

Add Contact Details 


It is a cool idea to put the business name and logo on the menu to increase brand awareness. 

Moreover, consider adding the address, email, phone, website link, and all social networks where your business is. It encourages engaging communication with your customers. 

  

Proofread and Launch the Menu


Finally, it’s time to launch your menu. 

 

Take a moment to proofread and double-check everything. Including typos, grammatical errors, layout, spacing, color, and all other details. 

 

DON’T SKIP this step as a minor error can make all your efforts go to waste. 


Reflect the Brand Personality 


The moment a customer picks your menu, they are relating to your brand and forming an opinion about what you have to offer. 

 

Branding is all about shaping the customer experience. When you are designing a menu, incorporate the tips mentioned above, you are actually building a brand identity. 

 

The colors you use, the products you offer, the graphics you add, and whatnot. When everything on the menu resonates with your business' atmosphere and tone, it defines your brand’s culture and identity. 


So, are You Ready to Create Your Menu? 


Creating a brilliant menu for your business can be a great challenge and a lot of fun. In this article, we have described the building blocks you need to develop an effective menu, including:


  • Checking out your competition to design a UNIQUE menu.
  • Planning everything ahead, from listing down the menu items to their pricing and overall menu composition. 
  • Ensuring that menu color, fonts, size, and other design elements are appealing and readable. 
  • Strategically breaking menu items into sections. Writing compelling descriptions for dishes/beverages. Adding mouthwatering images. 
  • Personalizing the menu by creating many menus.
  • Carefully considering other elements such as menu language and pricing style. 


Nothing can beat a digital menu when it comes down to creating a menu that offers all the perks described above. From having many menus separately to bringing all those elements harmoniously in one place, a digital menu offers it all. 


If you want to create a digital menu that offers flexibility and clarity, zimenu is here to help. The tool is very easy to use to help you design a menu. It is endlessly customizable, adaptable, and more importantly appealing to all your customers. Click HERE for more information. 

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