Think about a time within the last couple of months when you ate a restaurant. Do you remember what the menu looked like? What made it stand out? Did you like it? Did the plastic menu enhance your experience at the restaurant?
Menus are important to a restaurant’s business. It’s a marketing tool to communicate to your customers what you have to offer. It’s your chance to showcase your food and your chef’s abilities in one glance.
As of Spring 2016 there were just over 620,000 restaurants in the US alone…and they all have one thing in common.
That’s right. Menus.
You might say there’s a bit of a competition out there. So you need to stand out, be memorable, compliment the amazing food you serve with a stylish, brand specific menu.
In this article we’ll go over some design ideas that could help boost your top dishes as well as enhance your descriptions so that your customers feel like they want to try one of everything.
Although design is important for your menu and restaurant, which we’ll talk about shortly, the material you choose to print these menus on is just as important. I would suggest synthetic substrate materials over plastic any day.
Synthetic menus are waterproof, tear-resistant, and durable. Not to mention the color printed on this material is brighter and more clear than printing on plastic or having cardstock laminated.
These menus don’t fade like other materials if left in the sun or other UV lights. So the beautiful menus you’re about to design won’t fade in your customer’s minds. You can read more about synthetic menu materials here.
When a customer sits down at a restaurant with her two year old who is getting ‘hangry’ (hungry-angry) they usually don’t want to be handed a book of choices. The average time a customer spends reading a menu is about 100 seconds…unless they have a two year old, then it’s more like 20.
Making a condensed menu is easier for your customer to read. It’s easier on their mind, and you aren’t wasting your time and money printing dishes on a menu that your customers probably won’t even get to before making a selection. So making a menu where all of your dishes can be seen at once is better. This shouldn’t be any bigger than a tri-fold.
To help condense your menu you can make separate menus. For example, you can offer your brunch menu between the hours of 9am-12pm. Offer a stand alone daily special or happy hour menu. One tip is to keep the dessert menu separate. Customers are more likely to order an appetizer and dessert if they are not shown the dessert menu along with the main menu.
Colors and Images
Now that we have a crisp, condensed menu let’s think about the colors and images that can help make your menu stand out. When thinking about colors, think about the atmosphere and lighting of your restaurant. Think about how you want to convey the feeling of your brand to your customers.
Using contrast colors is a good way to make your menu stand out and remain readable. Choosing colors that match the interior of your restaurant will keep the feel of your restaurant from being interrupted.
Images can be tricky. Pictures can draw attention to a specific dish, especially while customers are scanning the menu. However, you don’t want to overload your menu with pictures because that can lower the value of the menu. A good rule of thumb would be to use only one or two images per page.
When inserting pictures into your menu there are couple things to remember. You want to post high-quality photos of your food. Grainy, out-of-focus pictures won’t do your dishes justice.
You also don’t want to present a dish to your customer that looks nothing like the mouth watering photo on your menu. So make sure what you are advertising to your customers can be replicated. This can really enhance your diner’s experience.
Description and Pricing
Because customers don’t spend a lot of time reading menus line by line you want make sure that you are describing your dishes in simple terms. Customers typically don’t order confusing dishes, or items they can’t pronounce.
When it comes to describing your dishes, you also don’t want to just list the ingredients. You want to use words such as ‘warm, succulent, juicy’ to describe them. This kind of wording excites the taste buds and prepares your customer for what they can look forward to when ordering their dish. Need help coming up with some great descriptive words for your menu? Here is a list that covers any descriptive word you might need (even French terms).
To give your menu a personal touch you can specifically describe your signature dishes that are special to your restaurant. Finding out from the chef why this dish was created can give you a good idea of how to describe it in your menu.
For example, when describing your signature Sheppard’s Pie you could mention that it contains ‘the same ingredients that Great Aunt Heidi used during the winter in Montana. It’ll put some meat on your bones to keep you warm through the winter months’.
When pricing your dishes you want to leave the dollar sign off the menu. Customers tend to buy cheaper items when there is a dollar sign present. Listing prices in a column can cause your customers to scan your menu only by price. What some restaurants find is that listing the price after the dish description helps customers pay more attention to the dish and not the price.
It can be overwhelming thinking about all the details that go into the design of a menu. Don’t worry we’ve been doing this for awhile. Give us a call and our knowledgeable, creative staff can help you get your menus started today.