6 Must-Have Restaurant Menu Design Tips + Examples

Eating out is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable outdoor activities. And eating at a good restaurant is just that extra step to pamper oneself after a long week. Imagine reaching a restaurant and sitting down to order with the menu in hand only to find yourself with a headache looking at the confusing menu, unsure of what to make of it. 

Bad experiences like this one are hard to forget for a consumer. So, if you are a restaurant owner, one thing to remember is to ensure that your restaurant menu design makes things simpler for your customers, not complicate the experience for them. 

Yes, menu designs can highly impact a customer’s experience. A good menu design has the potential to increase a customer’s appetite and therefore advocate excellent ordering behavior. But how do you achieve “good design” when it comes to a restaurant menu? 

Allow us to take you through some design tips to help you up your restaurant menu design game. Subsequently, these tips will help you make a statement to keep those customers returning. 

6 Design Tips to Make a Statement

1. Define Your Brand Identity

It’s important to define your brand identity in your restaurant menu design because customers identify with consistent branding. From their prior online research about the place to the signage outside the restaurant, the customer will create a connection with your branding. If they don’t see that same identity in your restaurant menu design they will feel disconnected from the whole experience.

This is why it’s important to be on point with your branding when it comes to your restaurant menu design. To do this – 

All of these help build brand awareness among patrons. 

We will also discuss how you can use colors and typography to make an appealing menu design a little later in this blog. 

Below is a menu from the famous fast-food restaurant Chick-fil-A. 

And this is what their website looks like.

As you can see from these designs, the brand incorporates its unique brand identity into its menu design so that the design feels connected to the rest of the branding materials. 

2. Organize and Structure the Menu

A menu has a lot of moving pieces. From images to, illustrations to text there will be so much going on in a restaurant menu design. Without proper structure and clear organizing your menu could become a disaster. This in turn could completely affect a customer’s ordering experience. 

So, you need proper use of visual hierarchy. For this, you would have to categorize your menu items using sections and headings, and other visual elements to help its structure become sturdy. 

Apart from that you can also take into account different reading patterns that are unique to restaurant menu design. In the restaurant biz, there is what they call the “sweet spot” in a menu. It’s the items listed on the top right-side corner of the menu design. It’s said that a customer’s eye immediately goes to the food listed on that corner. That’s why most specials are listed on that corner in a restaurant menu design.

Have a look at this example yourself and see where your eyes first land:

It’s also notable that a logical division of the items on the menu helps customers comfortably scan the food listed. It helps them select methodically.

Another very important thing to remember is that the “new in” is the QR code menu. They’re the digital version of your menu. According to Menu Tiger, 60% of patrons use QR code menus. So make sure the structure and layout are digital-friendly as well. Or you can make changes to the digital version to promote good ordering behavior. 

3. Highlight Signature Dishes

Just like in any other industry, customers in the food industry respond well to specialties. That’s why featuring signature dishes and specials can help you promote customer spending. Even though signature dishes can be expensive the kind of emphasis you give to the dish can make people go ahead and splurge a little. 

You can highlight these signature dishes by personalizing the name. You can use words like Grandma’s homemade chicken pot pie, Traditional Moussaka, and Authentic Italian gnocchi to incur nostalgia and to connect with the consumer on a personal level.

Let’s look at the example below. This is a menu from one of the most famous restaurants in America, Commander’s Palace which was founded in 1880. You can see how they’ve highlighted the specials in the menu by personalizing the names of some of the dishes. They’ve even made notes about the specialty of the dish as can be seen below. 

Furthermore, use high-quality images or illustrations to visually depict what’s special about the highlighted dish. 

This brings us to the next design tip.  

4. Utilize High-Quality Imagery

A restaurant menu design is basically advertising food. While sometimes it’s good to let the customer imagine for themselves what the food is going to be like, it’s also better if they can see it before they order it. 

You would need to use high-quality images if you want to feature dishes in your restaurant menu design because any poor-quality images would ultimately compromise the overall quality of the menu. 

The downside to using images to show food items listed is the cost that you would have to bear in order to take those photographs. In that case, you can use suitable illustrations of either the food ingredients or some other kind of illustration that would help make the menu visually appealing. Here’s where a good custom illustration service could come in handy. That could incidentally help save the cost and effort you put into the menu design. 

Important Tip: The dish would have to closely resemble the image shown on the menu. If you’re serving a fussy customer then there’s a chance that they’d complain that the picture and the actual food were nothing alike. When the bill comes they’d expect it to be comped because expectations weren’t met. So on that note, remember to keep the images realistic and avoid using misleading graphics. 

5. Choose Legible Fonts and Typography

A menu demands to be read. That’s the whole purpose of a menu. It will have a lot of text and information that will help the customer make a decision about their food order. While there’s a chance it could have images depicting the dish, a menu will mostly have words. In that sense, it’s very important that these words are readable. This why using legible fonts and utilizing good typography principles, would be of much value. 

Using fonts that suit the ambiance of the restaurant and your brand identity will help customers relate better to the menu. Creating variations in the sizes that you incorporate for different headings and sections will help your menu be more readable.  

The clutter-free layout and the clean sans-serif font in the above restaurant menu makes it comfortable to scroll through the items. 

Similarly, focus on customer convenience when choosing fonts. Because the last thing a hungry customer wants to do is struggle to read the contents in a restaurant menu. 

6. Pay Attention to the Colors

We spoke about the need for using your brand colors in your restaurant menu design. There will be other colors used in the design in addition to your standard brand palette. These additional colors should:

To achieve this, make the most of color psychology to guide customers’ attention to special dishes and signature dishes will ensure that you get good returns. 

All of this matters because seeing the right colors in the right setting can help increase appetite. So do your research before you start building your restaurant menu design. Color can help evoke desired emotions in customers and help enhance their dining experience. 

Let’s Recap

34% of Americans visit casual dining restaurants once a week. That’s a significant portion of people, given the time frame. So to make customers frequently dine at your establishment you need to make a statement. And before you make a statement with the actual food, customers first get impressed by your menu. 

Don’t forget that the thing standing between your customer and your food is the menu. The menu helps in giving a prior ‘taste’ of the food they’re about to savor. Your restaurant menu design will greatly impact their ordering behavior.

Accordingly, if all goes well you can be assured that they would go home satisfied. Patrons are who you need to gain and they will be the ones who will refer your establishment to another friend or family member. You can then expect increased sales via referrals which is one of the top marketing forms in the restaurant industry. 

In French, Mise en place is a culinary lingo translated to English as, “putting in place”. It refers to how everything from the tools to the ingredients is prepared before service time. Similarly, don’t skip out on mise en place all the necessary requirements of a restaurant menu design before you actually hand it out to the customer for ordering. 

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