10 Tips for Delicious Menu Design

10 Tips for Delicious Menu Design

A diner’s menu is one of the most important internal advertising tools for any venue. It’s the customer's ultimate guide to the restaurant, and the presentation and layout can impact what someone orders. Having designed many menus for restaurants, event venues, bars, pubs and more, the IF Agency team know what it takes to create an absolutely delicious menu design.

Here are 10 tips, considerations and techniques for delicious menu design.

1. Design for the customer

Always start with the customer audience. Consider who is the target audience and also what is the environment that the menu will be viewed like? An older audience may need larger text and a dark environment needs good contrast of colours. Legibility is key, if they can’t read the menu it is a waste of paper.

2.Organise the layout

Customers use a menu to make a decision about what to order. But it goes much deeper than that. A menu should be easy to read, clear and the information organized. Keep the layout simple and consistent, starters where they would be expected, desserts and sides less prominent than mains.

3. Think inside the box

Use simple stand outs to emphasize certain menu items and draw the customer’s eye to upsells and favourite dishes. It doesn’t have to be a box – it could be a photo of the dish, a graphic or illustration, a border or a coloured or shaded box - anything that attracts the eye.

4. Use colour theory

People respond to colour in emotional ways and often subconsciously. Colour can be used for emphasis but consider colour theory in the choice of shade. Red and blue are generally thought to help stimulate appetites, green represents healthiness and blue is associated with seafood from the ocean.

5. A picture doesn't ALWAYS say a thousand words!

Whether or not to include photographs of dishes as an effective addition to a menu depends largely on the type of restaurant. Including a photograph with every dish tends to be a technique associated with lower-end venues, high-end restaurants generally avoid photography as it suggests family friendly / value. In support of images to entice and inform customers Gregg Rapp recommends that one photograph per page can increase sales for a menu item by up to 30%. Imagery must always use professionally shot images and never use stock shots, they are easy to spot and instantly make menus look unauthentic.

6. Keep descriptions concise

Keep dish descriptions short particularly if there are many dishes. People are in a restaurant, to talk to their fellow guests not in a library sat down to read a novel! That said using longer descriptors on one or two dishes is a great tactic when upselling a ‘signature dish’.

7. Cost engineering

Menu engineers make a point of studying which parts of the “prime real estate” of the menu. The key areas, where people look first and for the longest, tend to be the first and last items. For that reason, the dishes placed in those spots are usually the biggest sellers. Never order dishes in price order as this will lose income, consider carefully dish profitability and its menu placement to have an impact on the bottom line.

8. Typography tips

Typographical hierarchy and consistency is crucial. Section off parts of the menus with bigger typography, then dish names/prices, with dish descriptors to be less prominent. There are thousands of fonts to choose, the font choice should be reflective of the brand. Whatever the font, studies suggest that guests perceive a premium experience and higher quality when presented with the font’s italic version which can result in higher sales.

9. Size matters

When it comes to fonts and leading (the vertical space between lines of text), size matters a lot. Font size needs to be big enough for users to read the text without strain, 8pt is an absolute minimum for dish descriptions but be mindful of customer profile, a more mature audience will find larger sizes more legible. Make sure leading gives text room, not so much that space is sacrificed but enough to ensure ascender and descenders never clash.

10. Don’t forget the small print

Last but by no means least menus must fulfil their legal requirement to declare dietary and allergen information making it easily accessible, appropriately coded, accurate and legible.

Want to see some great examples of menu design? Check out some of the menus created by the IF Agency for Chef & Brewer that helped the brand grow by over 10% YOY.