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The Language Your Restaurant Menu Should Be Using

Feb 13, 2019

The humble menu card is the most important internal advertisement tool your restaurant can have. It showcases the restaurant’s signature dishes, and it reflects the style, ambiance, and theme of the establishment. They can either be formal i.e. all your dishes listed on heavy paper with fancy fonts, or they can be ultra-casual, i.e. daily special dishes written on a chalkboard.

Writing a restaurant menu is not just about making delicious dishes look delightful, but it has a rhyme and reason to it. Understanding the layout, pricing structure, images to be used and creating selling descriptions are all pieces of your puzzle that make a restaurant menu successful.

Theme and colors:

The menu is also an extension of the overall theme of the restaurant from choosing menu colors, fonts, layouts and pictures that complement the theme of the restaurant. You can get creative and use different items to display your menu; chalkboards, breadboards, and written scrolls. Use pops of contrast colors to make your menu vibrant. Consider the interior design and lighting of your restaurant while selecting menu hues. Make sure the colors on your menu complements its environment as that will also help you solidify and promote your brand. The logo is the key; captain of your brand. So make sure it steers the menu design by matching it to your menu fonts, colors, and imagery. The colors on the restaurant menu have a high impact on what your guests order. Did you ever wonder why so many restaurant menus utilize yellow and red? Well, yellow draws our attention and red stimulates appetite whereas blue images and icons can be helpful in selling seafood.

Lay your layout well:

Breakdown your menu into categories that flow in the same pattern that a customer would take while eating a meal. Begin with appetizers or drinks, followed by starters such as soups, salads, entrees and so on followed by the main course and desserts. Use one or two column format for a clean look. Designate house specialty and signature dishes with an outline, bold or star print that will draw the reader’s attention. If your restaurant specializes in signature drinks or delicacies desserts, consider creating a separate menu for these categories.

It’s all in the Description:

The way you choose to describe your dishes is your chance to sell them. Engage your guests with clear and straightforward descriptions that are never boring; they should be more than a list of ingredients. Make sure the food descriptions are easy to read and not of technical chef jargons; avoid overly descriptive language and hard to read fonts. Your menu is your restaurant’s ambassador, and you will surely want to put your best foot forward. Items on your menu may be similar to those offered at your competitor’s restaurants. So describe your item in a way that lets your customers know it’s different and more appetizing. Use expressive language to appeal to your customers’ senses and excite their appetites. So instead of using “Bread pudding with oranges and butterscotch,” consider a description like, “Warm orange bread pudding with butterscotch glaze.” Also, using familiar names in food titles adds personality such as Joe’s special recipe ribs or grandma’s special rosemary lamb shanks or Newyork style pizza.

Pricing the right way:

Don’t use $7 word when a 70-cent word will do; using long tail words to describe a dish and a price is a sign of an expensive restaurant. Your food should cost roughly 30% to 35% of the menu price. The menu price will fluctuate from this average depending on the type of restaurant and the target customer. Understanding your food costs is one of the most crucial parts for pricing a restaurant menu because that determines the profit or loss and should be carefully calculated. You will want to make sure you are making enough of a profit while remaining competitive with other restaurants in your area. Make sure you survey competitor restaurants to determine the average pricing for the area. Seasonal food items will require you to use the market price on your restaurant’s menu.

A picture is worth a thousand words:

Professional high-resolution images can spark a craving and grab the attention of your distracted customers. You can show off your signature dish plating to its best advantage. Have one image on each page of your menu, and also make sure you don’t clutter your menu with multiple images on each page. And a low-quality photo will do the opposite – so no grainy snapshots, please!

A physical menu is standard for almost every restaurant. But one menu is never going to be sufficient. According to a study, 80% of customers want to see a menu online before going down to the restaurant. Make sure you work on the online menu as well. Designing the perfect restaurant menu can be fun. Try being as creative as possible with cost-effective ingredients, strategic pricing and easy-to-digest descriptions of your dishes. Don’t shy away from changing your restaurant’s offerings from time to time. After all, it’s your restaurant!

On a final note, designing and printing restaurant menus may be expensive, and you might have a cash crunch due to other factors like revamping or renovating your restaurant. You can apply for small business restaurant alternative financing for easy cash flow as you surely don’t want to compromise on the quality of the menu!


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