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How to Design a Restaurant Menu

Updated: Oct 28, 2023

It may seem trivial. You put the dishes in order on a piece of paper, include prices and descriptions and off You go. The important thing is that the food is good, right? No sir, it isn't.

Diseño de carta restaurante

The design of the menu has a massive impact on the sales of your restaurant. It can increase the average ticket of your restaurant up to +15%. It's your best waiter. The one who makes customers fall in love with it. The one who works every shift. And it is always in a good mood 😉

In this guide, I'll tell you some essential tricks to keep in mind when creating and designing your restaurant's menu strategy.

10 tips for creating and designing a restaurant menu:

1. Define your Restaurant's Branding

Before starting to design the menu, it is vital that you have a solid brand identity and a clear branding strategy. What kind of restaurant are you? What consumption moments do you cover? What makes your offer stand out from the rest? Who is your target audience? Answering these questions will help you set the direction for your menu design. A fast food restaurant will have a very different menu than a fine dining restaurant, right? And yet We've all seen outstanding restaurants with roadhouse bars’ design.

2. Organize your Product Categories

A well-organized menu is easy to read and helps customers find what they want quickly. Organize your dishes into logical sections such as starters, main courses, types of dishes, desserts, beverages and cocktails. Be sober or be creative, but avoid the "From the garden / From the sea / From the land" expressions, I beg you. They went out of style a long time ago.

diseño de carta restaurante

Within these sections, consider using additional categories, such as vegetarian, gluten-free or chef's specials. Also, think about the visual layout: use clear titles and headings for each section and consider using bullets or icons to highlight featured dishes. Add communicative texts to the sections that interact with the diner and invite them to try new dishes.

Product costs and gross margins play an important role in the organization of these sections. I'll tell you about it in a bit but, in case you didn't know it already, I'm telling you now: The financial side is ALWAYS key in every decision of your restaurant. If you didn't know that, you're doing something wrong 😉

3. Develop Compelling Descriptions

In foodservice, it's all about stories. Dish descriptions are the opportunity to entice diners with the story of each dish. Use descriptive and appetizing words to present each dish. Instead of simply listing ingredients, create culinary narratives that highlight the uniqueness and flavour of each dish and guide your diner to understand and appreciate your story. But don't get too carried away; the menu needs to be simple and light to read or your service operations will not be effective. Magic lays on the balance.

4. Limit the use of Photos

If you are not a beach bar and there is no language barrier between you and your customers or difficulty to understand your dishes, it is not necessary for all dishes to have photos. It is overwhelming and turns your menu into a flea market: Impossible to harmonize.

Diseño de carta restaurante asiático

Select the dishes you want to highlight for their attractiveness, popularity, difficulty to understand or high margins.

Make sure the images are attractive and true to the actual presentation of the dishes and always avoid generic stock images.

A well-taken photograph can be a powerful marketing tool but a bad photo can prevent a dish from selling at all.

5. Create a logical Pricing Strategy

Prices are not random. The pricing strategy is fundamental in the menu of a restaurant and each price must respond to a criterion and be a thoughtful decision. Order your product categories taking into account the price range to which they correspond and maintain a balance of prices in each section ensuring consistency between minimum and maximum prices per section and overall. Consistency is your lifejacket.

6. Design your Menu with Finesse

The design of your menu should reflect the brand personality of your restaurant. Choose a colour palette that relates to the decoration and soul of your establishment and use legible fonts (never combine more than 3). Start with an attractive cover. Include your restaurant's logo and consider adding illustrations or graphic elements to enrich the presentation.

7. Choose a Qualitative and Durable Material

No to folder menus with laminated sheets inside. Not in this century. Please, I’m begging you.

Diseño de carta restaurante mexicano

Choose a durable material that withstands water and constant handling but is attractive to the eye and touch.

Play with formats other than the traditional ones, such as longer and thiner designs; and take into account every detail, such as whether the lamination will be matte or glossy. The devil is in the details.

If a part of your menu changes frequently (such as the menu of the day or tasting menu) design an independent material that integrates well with the menu through an insert and that has a lower cost.

8. Adapt your Design to the Digital Menu QR of your Restaurant

Your digital menu is equally or more important than the printed one. But it is not the same menu. We must adapt the design to the digital format and take advantage of its benefits. For example, digital design allows us to integrate more photographs in a dynamic and user friendly way while respecting the overall aesthetics. Design your digital menu with the same care and thoroughness as your website and following the same user experience strategy.

9. Consider Dietary Restrictions

Diseño de carta restaurante chino

Be sure to clearly indicate on your menu if a dish is vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and its allergens. Also include relevant information such as the level of spiciness, the origin of the food or the supplier (is it organic or KM.0? Tell your customers so they can appreciate it).

It is not only a legal issue, but a matter of ethics in the hospitality industry, informing our customers so they can make the right choice. We all get frustrated when making the wrong choice. And a frustrated customer never gives you a second chance.

10. How Often do you Change the Menu of a Restaurant?

Be sure to review and update the menu at least twice a year to reflect seasonal changes, new dishes and the changing preferences of your customers. Analyse the result in sales, margins and average ticket of each of your menu decisions and make semi-annual optimizations. A fresh menu shows that your restaurant is constantly evolving and offers reasons for customers to come back again and again. But above all, an updated menu is more profitable for your business. If you need help analysing the impact of your menu strategy, ask us. We give free advice 😉

11. (Bonus Track!) Translate your menu

Last quick tip: Don't forget to make sure your menu is available in at least one language other than the official one(s) in your city. We don't want to leave any customer out. If you need help with a cheap translation for your restaurant's menu, ask us.

Lastly, the most important thing: have fun designing your new menu. Let your creativity flow and experiment. Your diners will appreciate it. And your business will notice it immediately.


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