Mastering the Art of Restaurant Menu Design

Marketing 7 minute read 5th October 2020

As a restaurant owner you already know the importance of getting your customers’ senses fired up, so they have the best dining experience possible. You want them to have an experience they’ll want to recreate again, one they’ll want to show the world through social media and one they’ll be bursting to tell friends and family about.

You want them to look around at your beautifully laid out space and smell the gorgeous aromas coming out of the kitchen. You want them to hear the carefully devised soundtrack you’ve created, as well as the quiet murmur of other contented guests.

And you want this experience to last from the moment they walk into your restaurant, to your moment they walk away – stomachs full and smiles on their faces.

Creating a menu that captures attention and help to reinforce your brand can become and integral part of creating this stellar sense experience. From how it looks to how it feels, there are many ways you can make your menu work harder for you.

Making the most of your menu

Let’s start off by looking at how we as humans typically read a menu – something that’s called eye-scanning.

When we first look at a menu our eyes tend to move to the middle section first, then they travel towards the top right – finally ending up at the top left. Knowing this pattern means you can design your menu to make sure that your big hitter dishes are the first to be seen.

These dishes could provide you with the biggest profit margins or they could be the ones that you do best) ideally, they will be both). By putting them smack bang in the initial line of sight will help them draw the most attention and therefore the most orders.

Good looks will get you far

Next up, you have how the menu looks. Firstly, the colours that are used. Studies have shown that colour has a much bigger impact that we would typically imagine. For example, using green will subconsciously tell customers that your products are fresh. Orange has been found to stimulate the appetite and yellow gives a feeling of happiness as well as being an attention stealer.

Carrying on with the theme of looks – the next point to focus on is typography. You want this to match seamlessly with the rest of your branding to give diners a consistent experience. You also want to make sure your type is clear and easy to read (this is especially apt if you make use of lower lighting in your restaurant).

Once you’ve nailed this, think of the size of the font you’re using. Too big and you can risk it looking childish, too small and you’ll have diners having to work too hard to read through your dishes.

Finally, in terms of menu aesthetics, is the use of imagery and illustration. Whether you decide to put images of your food on your menu is going to come down to the type of restaurant you have and the dishes you serve. In most instances, we’d recommend steering away from imagery as it’s very hard to do well and in most minds, it conjures up connotations of more fast-food type outlets. If, however you have one of these outlets – it can be ideal. It can also work well if you’re selling unusual dishes that diners may have not come across before.

But, in the majority of cases we would recommend using illustration and iconography instead. Used sparingly they can become part of your brand personality and can be used throughout your restaurant to build on this branding.

Don’t confuse your customer with too much content

Whilst points two, three and four have focused on what you put on to your menu to make it stand out, our fifth point focuses on what you shouldn’t be putting on there. By this we mean making sure you utilise white space effectively.

Why is this important? Because our brains don’t like clutter. It’s confusing and it becomes a chore to have to read whatever in front of us. So, keeping your menu clean and simple helps to keep a customer focused on what’s important – choosing what they’re about to put in their stomach.

Lastly, we wanted to touch on a topic that is woefully undervalued when it comes to menu design – and that’s the material it’s printed on and how it’s presented.

Done well, this can be yet another way to showcase who you are through your menu. If part of your USP is that your dishes change frequently, then a paper menu that has today’s date on it will say this with no words. If you’re running a more high-end restaurant, then thick stock and leather bindings may be more suited to your style of customer.

Adaptability is key

However you decide to create your menu the key is to be open to changing it if it’s not quite working for you. Whilst the above focuses on general rules of thumb, it will be your customers who drive your brand. They’ll tell you what they like of yours and what they want from your restaurant. So, make sure to listen and be open to change – so you can stay relevant in a world of ever-changing customer expectations.

P.S Interested in perfecting the guest experience? See what Beambox can do for your restaurant.

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