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fail proof menu design ideas



Menu design comes down to a delicate balance of creativity and psychology. Too much design can be overkill, and limited design can be damaging to your brand's image. Understanding the design blocks needed, you can design a best in class menu that improves profits and increases your loyal repeat customers.

An Introduction to Menu Engineering

Selecting the correct colors, fonts, and images are just the beginning steps of what is required. Knowing how these items are included in the design and what layout combinations work with your brand is where menu design engineering comes into play. If your menu is designed correctly, you can experience significant lifts in profit without increasing costs.

menu template design

Restaurant Menus Are Like Real Estate


Look at your menu as an investment property. For real estate to be successful, your properties need to be clean, and your higher-end buildings are located in prime areas to attract top-dollar renters.


Menus are similar. Restaurant menu engineers focus on their guests and how they read and choose items.

Menu Reading Patterns


Understanding how your guests will review your menu is pivotal to maximizing the real estate of your menu. For example, the simple three-panel menu.


When a three-panel is opened, your eyeballs instantly look at the middle and then move to the right-side panel, upper right section. Then, the eyeballs slowly scan across the menu, ending up in the panel's upper left corner.

Custom menu designers call this the sweet spot. These three areas are where you will want to spotlight your highest-profit items and signature dishes.

Menu Item Names and Descriptions


Aside from sweet spots, how your items are named and read plays a critical role in driving demand. A well-written menu can often weigh-in if your guest comes back again to try something else that grabbed their attention on the menu. Follow these simple steps to make the best of your menu design:


  • Names: a large pizza suddenly catches your eye if called Homemade Mozzarella Pizza

  • Descriptions: list exotic ingredients and add longer descriptions to your higher-margin items, and short descriptions to regular items

  • Spacing: set featured items apart and make sure enough space is allowed, so it stands out

  • Pricing: add prices at the end of item descriptions, not justified to the right. This supports the guest to select an item per description, not price

  • $$$: don't show the dollar sign; it has been proven to create an adverse sub-conscious reaction


Menu Copywriting and Editing


No matter how incredible the menu design, poor item names and descriptions can easily take the sizzle out of your menu. A well-written menu that uses concise and rich descriptions will set you apart from the competition. Misspellings, bad grammar, and improper punctuation is quick to stand out and can quickly your brand image. 


Here's an example of how. A guest sees the word pizza, spelled "piza." They think it's funny and take a quick picture of it with their phone and post it to social media. Within minutes, several hundred people not only see that mistake and, without ever eating at your restaurant, have a negative image of it. 


Tip: consider hiring a professional copywriter and proofreader to assist with writing.


Identity and Charm

Knowing your brand's personality, background, and objectives will help you craft your menu design. To identify what your brand's image is and how it is perceived, you must take an in-depth look at:


  • What type of ambiance are you looking to create?

  • Do you want to be serious, fun, or classy?

  • What set of colors do you like, and how does it match the ambiance?

  • What type of restaurant decor matches the atmosphere and your brand's colors?

  • What are your restaurant values and promise to the guest?


When understanding who your restaurant is and it's brand, you will have the guidelines for your menu design and its theme.

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