There’s a lot that goes into crafting an exceptional menu. As a restaurant owner or chef, you’ve spent countless hours tasting, refining, and perfecting the dishes you’re finally ready to share with the world. Now the only thing left to do is get it down on paper. But before you hastily run off to the printer, there are a few things to keep in mind that will help you hone in on your vision and give your customers a better impression of your establishment.
Hire a Professional
As a frequent restaurant patron, and a graphic designer myself, I have a habit of visually scrutinizing every food menu I come across before I even read the items listed on them. The first and most apparent thing I notice is whether or not it’s been done by an experienced professional. Although Microsoft Publisher may have some cool tools and you think it’s worth doing it yourself to keep your costs down, keep in mind that your menu acts as you’re most powerful sales tool. Investing in getting done right will not only allow you to focus more time on running your business, but show your customers that you don’t cut corners when it comes to their overall dining experience.
I think one of the biggest challenges for any restaurant owner is deciding how to limit the items offered on their menu. Too many options can overwhelm your customer and cause anxiety. It can also hurt your profit as the more items the customer has to choose from, the longer they sit, leading to a lower table turnaround rate. The general rule of thumb is to not exceed 7 items per category. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, having one or two more options in a section isn’t going to kill you, but in most cases this has been tried and true. There’s also a huge benefit to fitting your whole menu on one sheet, with the main items on the front and maybe limiting the back side to specials, kids menu, beverage, or even a little story about the restaurant. This can prove beneficial on busier nights when customers are waiting longer as they have some light reading material. Consolidating your items onto one menuwill also decrease reprint cost and ongoing design updates.
Be Strategic with your Wording
Give some thought to the way you describe your dishes. For example, a modern, upscale restaurant with high end cuisine and classically trained chefs, may not use much fluff when listing their ingredients. Meaning the “Atlantic Salmon” will say “pan-seared, fingerling potatoes, grilled zucchini” whereas a similar dish at a family style Italian eatery could say “fresh salmon grilled to perfection, served with roasted fingerling potatoes and grilled zucchini”. Of course there is no wrong or right way, but it’s something to keep in mind. Most of all make sure you are consistent throughout the entire menu.
Know Your Menu
The first and most important task when designing a menu is organizing the content and constructing a layout. It usually isn’t until that part has been established that it’s time to think about incorporating the graphic elements and style. The formatting is done behind the scenes, tediously and with a lot of patience, ensuring each line is even and that there is consistency in the type size, column width, letter spacing…etc. Even before that, however, the first draft of the menu given by the owner/chef needs to be analyzed. Whether you provide the file via email in a word document, you fax or scan an existing menu or bring an outlined list of handwritten items, it’s a good idea to have it at least resemble what the final menu will be. It’s going to be the blueprint for determining the layout, so if the designer has begun working and a few days later you decide you want to try and squeeze a whole new section of dishes to the menu, it’s going to be more time spent reformatting and delay the design process. Alternately the best option if you find yourself still working through the menu, is give the person designing your menu a heads up before they start that there may be more items coming their way. Then at least they can allocate the area for those dishes, or fill it in with some sort of graphic element otherwise. It’s a lot easier to have the extra space as opposed to not having enough when it comes to design.