Menu Development for Restaurants: Tickle Taste Buds With These Ideas and Tips

Management 15 minute read 21st December 2020

Your restaurant menu is often the first point of contact between you and your customers. It’s an essential tool for selling your food, creating a good impression, and providing an enjoyable dining experience. Proper menu development, therefore, should be one of your top priorities. At the very least, your menu design should make it easy for customers to browse your food selection; if your menu makes their mouth water and they’re always eager to look through it, then you can expect repeat business and full seating most days of the week!

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Designing a Menu That Your Guests Can Sink Their Teeth Into

Delectable photos, enticing descriptions, and a harmonious and tasteful design all add to an overall satisfying dining experience. Needless to say, the food you serve must be as palatable as what your customers see on the menu, if not more. Menu development is more than just listing your selection of food and drinks; it’s also not limited to just having beautiful photos. Before we dig into the essentials of developing a menu, let’s take a quick look at what a thoughtfully engineered menu brings to the table — pun intended.

  • Your guests will be happily confused about what food to order.
  • You’ll build a loyal customer base and have a successful loyalty program.
  • You’ll leave a positive and lasting impression on guests and have a consistently good online reputation.
  • You can effectively draw attention to profitable items on your menu.
  • Customers will eagerly join your restaurant email list.
  • You can expect decent to superb sales daily, weekly, and monthly, as well as table turnaround success.
  • Your servers will enjoy generous gratuity.
  • You’ll have a happy chef and great team morale among your kitchen staff.

Developing a Menu: Your Recipe for Success

A restaurant menu has a far greater potential than just showing customers the food you offer and their prices. During menu development, whether you’re engineering a new restaurant menu or redesigning an existing one, you should also think about how to incorporate your brand’s identity into it; how you can elevate the appeal of items with the highest profit margins; how to promote certain dish and drink pairings to drive drink sales; and how to make food selection convenient for customers.

Key Ingredients for Your Menu Development

  • Food placement according to popularity and profitability, i.e., combinations of (un)profitable and (un)popular.
  • Limited selection per category. Having too many food choices may do more harm than good. Reduce the burden of choice or you’ll risk losing money on unpopular items. This also applies to menu modifiers.
  • The golden triangle. According to menu engineers, this section on a menu starts at the middle of the page and follows a path toward the top right corner and across to the top left corner — forming a triangular pattern of eye movement that customers often make when scanning a menu. Strategically place high-margin items within this triangle.
  • Color choices. How our earliest ancestors identified which foods are safe and unsafe based on colors is deeply ingrained into our psychological makeup.
  • Text styles. Choose an appropriate text style to highlight certain items, i.e., high-margin items, and make sure your text is easy to read, especially when customers are using your restaurant mobile app and browsing your menu on a small screen.
  • Photos. Too many food photos or having a menu dominated by images can also be overwhelming. Include photos of items you want to promote more than others and make sure they’re of high quality.
  • Cross-selling. Like a dash of the right spice that elevates the flavor profile of a dish, sprinkle pairing suggestions under high-margin items (i.e., a pasta dish best paired with white wine) or place dishes that go well together (soups and salads, for example) under the same header.
  • Overall accessibility. The overall design of your menu should be uncluttered, easy to read and browse through, and appealing but easy on the eyes in terms of color scheme.

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Check out these menu design ideas to give you a stroke of inspiration and take note of the additional tips for a successful menu development.

  1. Give your customers enough white space. Using adequate white space increases reading comprehension by up to 30%. Here’s a great example from LA’s Audrey at the Hammer. Take note of how they creatively incorporated their name around the menu.


  1. Draw attention to certain menu items with boxes or contrasting colors. This is a great way to highlight profitable and popular items and profitable and unpopular items. Here’s an example from Birdie G’s.


  1. Leave out the dollar signs. Diners were found to spend more when ordering from a menu with the dollar signs omitted, according to a Cornell University study. Here’s an example from St. Andrew’s in New York.


  1. Curate your menu. In addition to providing limited choices per category, make sure each item you offer is unique so that there are no competing items, i.e., different types of cream-based pasta. An abundant menu can hurt sales as customers will take longer to order, which will reduce table turnaround rates. This is an important consideration during the early stages of menu development or if you’re updating your menu.

  2. Stimulate your guests’ appetite with descriptive words. Instead of just listing the main ingredients of a dish, describe it using words like “crisp,” “rich,” and “tangy.” Just remember not to get too wordy, as well. This example from SuMiao Hunan Kitchen says it best.


  1. Tempt diners with high quality photos. Printing photos on a menu is expensive, but adding a photo beside a menu item has been found to increase its sales by 30%. Make sure you only use high quality photos, or don’t even bother. You can always showcase your beautifully plated and scrumptious dishes on your social media pages — just remember to prompt your guests to check you out online by including links in your menus. Here’s a stunning example from Douzo Sushi.


  1. Easy accessibility for everyone. Your menu size should not be too big that holding it up is troublesome for some people. It shouldn’t be too small that the print is barely readable. If you have your menu displayed high up behind the counter, make sure you also have printed ones available for people with visual impairment. You can also have a digital menu that can be accessed via a QR code. Your website menu should be optimized for the smaller screens of smartphones. The menu on your restaurant mobile app should provide convenient navigation. And don’t forget to upload a high quality copy of your menu to your social media accounts.

DIY Menu Development for Printables, Website, and App

You don’t need to be a menu engineer or a graphic artist to create the perfect menu for your restaurant. There are tons of restaurant apps out there that are free and easy to use, and can help you with menu development from scratch or for a menu makeover.

How to design your menu

Give these menu design companies a try for a clean and refined menu development.

  • Adobe Spark. Anybody can use this nifty Adobe product, whether you’re new to designing or have limited knowledge and skills. Design a beautiful and high quality menu that’s consistent with your brand’s identity with Adobe Spark.
  • Poster My Wall. This online tool provides hundreds of menu templates to choose from so you can create a restaurant menu that’s uniquely your own.
  • iMenu Pro. This tool is all about menu design and nothing else. You can be sure that their tools and graphics are among the best ones out there for menu development.
  • MustHaveMenus. Choose from over 7,000 menu designs and customize your menu the way you want.
  • Flipsnack. If you’re looking for a menu development software that’s exclusively made for digital menus, give this tool a go.

Strategic Menu Design That Serves Your Customers’ Needs and Your Business Needs

Your menu development process requires time, careful consideration, and a lot of effort. Whether you’re designing a menu yourself or hiring a professional to do it, make sure the finished product will help improve your bottom line and also enhance your guests’ dining experience.

As providing guest WiFi is a perk that customers have come to expect from practically all types of businesses, and especially from restaurants, you can make it easier for paying customers to access your WiFi network by including a QR code or instructions on your menu. If you want full control of the guest WiFi experience, choose a fully customizable WiFi system, like Beambox.

There are many ways to make your WiFi network work to your advantage while serving your customers’ needs. You can limit WiFi access the way you want; display targeted content to your guests or drive more followers to your social media via a customized captive portal login; harness relevant customer data and have a better understanding of the people who patronize your business with smart marketing tools; and prompt customers to leave a review.

A sure way to improve dining experience, ensure repeat business, increase sales, and build loyalty is by giving your customers enhanced guest WiFi access. Connect, capture, and keep more customers with Beambox.

Beambox is an all-in-one WiFi solution that accomplishes all of the above and more. We have an existing client base of over 3,000 venues, and our customizable WiFi marketing solutions have been used in impressive and rewarding ways. You can drive sales with time-sensitive deals and promos for your restaurant, boost social engagement through Instagram or Facebook contests, and climb up on online ranking platforms through real-time customer reviews. Accelerate your business growth — start your Beambox free trial today!

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