We’ve all heard the expression, “You eat with your eyes.” And while your diners aren’t going to chow down on an actual menu design anytime soon, the look of your menus can not only make or break what diners order but also weigh into their overall dining experience.
Wondering what you can do to make the very best impression? Follow these five menu design tips the most attractive, informative and engaging restaurant menus.
1. Consider Color
Color isn’t just a matter of aesthetics; it can also serve a strategic purpose.
For example, bright colors act as a natural appetite stimulant which can do everything from prompting diners to order more to increasing the likelihood that they’ll splurge on higher-priced menu items.
However, while bold colors like yellow may work in a trendy or fast-casual setting, however, darker, more sedate colors may be more appropriate in the environment of upscale establishments.
2. Make It Personal
Today’s consumers are looking for more meaning in their experiences. While a generic menu does little to create a sense of connection between diners and your restaurant, incorporating a personal touch or two goes a long way toward strengthening your relationship, building your brand, and boosting consumer loyalty.
This can be a simple as using the font found on your building or more complex, such as creating a logo specific to your venue’s architecture, food, or another distinguishing factor.
3. Catch Their Eye
Poor readability due to the use of a small or illegible font, dark paper color, and a crowded appearance on the page are common menu design mistakes. But a blah, boring menu design is not any better.
Why? Because it gives diners little to be excited about when perusing the menu and making their selections.
But that’s only the beginning when it comes to designing an eye-catching menu.
Did you know that it’s possible to layout your menu to emphasize the most popular or profitable menu items? By placing high margin items and top sellers at the top and bottom of the page, you draw readers’ eyes directly to them.
Or, follow the lead of newspaper editors everywhere and highlight particular menu items by placing them at the top right of the page. Graphics, including circles and boxes, are another effective way to shine the spotlight on certain offerings.
While a dynamic menu is important, the use of pictures is under hotly contested debate. The consensus? While photos may work for casual establishments like Applebee’s and Chinese restaurants, they’re less appropriate for other kinds of establishments.
Not only are photos difficult to execute which can lead to unappetizing results, but they also fade and/or end up looking dated over time. If you do use photos, make sure that they are high-quality, and use them sparingly.
Also, remember that taste is subjective so what looks good to one person in a photo may not look good to another. A more successful tactic? Descriptions aimed at appealing to customers’ imaginations.
One definite no-no? Overemphasize the price. By aligning all of the prices in a single column, you give diners the opportunity to dismiss an item based entirely on price.
Research also indicates that the mere act of including a dollar sign prompts diners to order cheaper items, so leave the $ off of your price listings.
4. Lead with Logic
There’s nothing more frustrating for a diner than the struggle to identify desired items on a menu. One simple way to head off confusion? Organize your menu into clearly visible categories with eye-friendly fonts, beginning with appetizers and proceeding through sides, salads and entrees.
Insiders also advise using a separate menu for desserts. Why? Because if diners have their eye on a sweet treat, they may skip out on the appetizers to save room and money.
And speaking of your dessert menu, industry wisdom says your dessert menu should always include the “five C’s”: chocolate (natch), coffee, caramel, citrus, and cheesecake.
5. Use Your Servers
If well-designed menus are the restaurant equivalent of business cards, servers are the industry’s salespeople.
Creating a beautiful-looking menu is only one part of your menu planning.
Also integral to the process? Training staff to know the ins and outs of all items in order to seamlessly serve as a complement to what diners see when they look over the menu.
According to Gallup, the average diner spends 109 seconds looking at a menu. With such limited time and so much to lose or gain, can your restaurant really afford not to get your menus exactly right?