If you work in the food or beverage industry and are wondering how to create a restaurant menu that sells, you have come to the right place! It’s common knowledge that great food and drink, above-average customer service, and a super-smooth guest experience are some of the key ingredients to business success. But did you know that the potential power and profitability of a well-crafted menu is often underrated?
Cash in on Your Restaurant Menu
According to the pros, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to creating a standout restaurant menu. In fact, many caterers and restaurateurs underestimate just how noteworthy a menu can be in making their ‘biz stand out from the competitive crowd, missing the opportunity to cash in on their list of offerings. So, whether you are building a menu for the first time or updating an existing one, let’s take a peak under the lid to see what’s brewing in the world of foodservice for 2021-2022 and how you can take advantage of every aspect of your operation to shine — including a “carte du jour” that attracts the hungry crowds.
Menu Design Smarts
Whether you manage a restaurant, bar, bakery, pizza shop, ice cream parlor, café, or catering business, your menu is one of the first points of contact with customers. Not only does it set the tone for the guest experience at your establishment, but if crafted carefully, your menu can be a bona fide selling tool that reaps rich rewards.
So, what factors go into all well-developed menus and what elements can make your offerings jump off the page and captivate consumer attention?
Must-Have Restaurant Menu Features
You don’t have to go to back culinary school or don a particularly clever chef’s hat for the basics of restaurant menu design. Some of the most obvious and established ingredients to success include: foods and drinks that appeal to your frequent diners and target demographics; a menu that is easy to read and understand (including font size and layout and formatting); a length of no longer than two pages (following the industry axiom that when it comes to menus, less choices help customers make easier menu decisions); categories and subcategories that organize the ordering process (for example, appetizers, soups, salads, side dishes, entrees, beverages, and then dessert); an updated menu; an up-to-the-minute online menu that loads easily on any mobile device; plenty of user-friendly payment options, including contact-free and remote processes.
Post COVID-19 Menu Wisdom
In the aftermath of the global COVID pandemic, here is some more food for thought from the pros: Since many brick-and-mortar restaurants have transformed into remote/ghost kitchens, or provide pick-up and delivery services only, using restaurant and catering menus as a means of attracting traffic have become more important than ever. So, let’s delve into some of the newer aspects and ingredients of 2022 restaurant menu success and how your ‘biz can become a frontrunner in the race to the top.
Game-Changing Menu Features
To increase the chances that diners will choose your eatery over your competitors, here are some ideas for attracting them via your menu:
- Photos: Since many customers now order online, a web-based menu that allows you to easily upload photos, and your customers to easily download photos, is a must. When customers see what they can expect to get, their appetite is whet and they become more confident in what they are ordering. This, in turn, propels them to share the images with friends and family who may be ordering at the same time or may order in the future, boosting sales in a win-win formula.
- Research indicates that customers enjoy being in control of their dining experience, starting from the ordering process. A seamless virtual menu experience can therefore go a long way in earning loyalty and repeat customer visits.
- Social Media (Instagram/YouTube) and Augmented Reality: Stay on the cutting edge of the most advanced online “sharing” technologies available, some of which allow you to literally make your menu come to life on the screen. You already know that YouTube and Instagram are some of the most popular platforms for sharing videos and images. However, you can now go one step further and make menu selections literally ‘jump to life’ via Augmented Reality (AR) technology. Creating a 3D dining experience, AR allows you to upload images that are transformed into a 3-D food model. Using an AR app, customers can view the selections from any mobile device. According to the experts, AR has become a major driver of sales and the trend is expected to continue to grow.
- You can add icing to the cake by investing in voice-ordering capabilities, another exciting innovation to enter the field.
- Digital Menu Boards: Take your in-house restaurant menu to a new level by replacing the traditional printed format with a large LCD screen featuring your daily offerings. The latter allows you to change or adjust menu items frequently at no cost, promote special deals, update holiday and seasonal offerings, display your wine list, bring attention to featured items of the day, and more.
- Hire a professional food photographer to take staged images of your food, post online, and let the images do the talking.
- Menu Food Descriptions: A picture may be worth a thousand words, but how you describe your menu offerings can be another road to increased revenue. With the goal of appealing to customers’ taste buds and enticing them to buy, be sure to use appetizing adjectives and unique or curiosity-invoking dish names. For example, instead of simply listing a salad’s ingredients, upgrade its menu description to something like: “Goat Cheese Salad Sensation contains creamy goat cheese, leafy spinach, crunchy iceberg lettuce, walnuts, sesame seeds, and your choice of drizzled tahini sauce or a light strawberry vinaigrette.”
- Likewise, adjust menu descriptions to fit your audience. Use upscale language for first class dining, family-friendly depictions for children’s menus, nostalgic lingo for baby boomers and older generations, and modern slang or sleek fonts and designs for Millennials, Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z’ers.
- Special Diets: Must-have menu selections for 2022 include foods and beverages that cater to special dietary needs, i.e., gluten free, salt free, sugar free, fat free/low-fat, keto-friendly, dairy free, plant-based, and more.
Restaurant Menu Layout Tips and Tricks
If you are a savvy, forward-thinking caterer, or restaurateur, consider taking a course in menu engineering where you will learn the latest do’s and don’ts in the realm of menu design and layouts.
Here are some tips and tricks from the pros to get you started:
- Research indicates that having a separate dessert menu and a separate beverage menu may boost sales. The former gives customers time at the end of their meal to ponder what their palate craves, without precluding them from ordering an appetizer beforehand. The latter makes the main menu less bulky and allows you to highlight a more extensive hot and cold drink selection.
- Learn about the Golden Triangle identified by foodservice experts and psychologists. In a nutshell, the middle, top right, and top left sections of your menu constitute the ‘golden triangle.’ This is where customers gaze naturally goes to first! Each therefore is a formidable space to highlight specials, favorites, limited time offers, bonuses, and menu items of the day. To go one step further, draw even more attention to items by highlighting them with a decorative border, box, or color.
- Don your creative chef’s hat to come up with even more innovative ways to make eating at your establishment an exciting customer adventure. Remember: When it comes to menus, any win-win paradigm that benefits both your customers and your bottom line is sure-fire recipe to restaurant business success.
Bon Appétit and Good Luck!