November 1, 2022

The Importance of Menu Design

Everyone has experienced frustration with a menu at some point. Picture it: you get seated and handed a menu several pages long, with unclear descriptions and distracting fluff. Or maybe the menu is so short and vague that you can’t figure out what the kitchen is actually serving you or even what kind of restaurant you’re in. Good menu design can help your guests avoid this frustration and make it easy for them to kick back and enjoy the experience. If you want to design your menu like a pro, settle in for a crash course in great menu design.

Importance of Menu DesignBenefits of Good Menu Design

Ideally, a good menu design should be attractive, approachable, and something that doesn’t require your guests to think about. Ordering off a menu should be as easy as possible. Think of it like breathing; no thought goes into taking breaths. Reading your menu should be the same, and by making it a breeze to move through the menu, you can also build a few extra benefits for your restaurant.

Your Food Can Sell Itself

Quality menu design makes your food jump off the page and into the minds of your diners. There are two popular approaches here: minimalism and description.

Minimalism is a trend that has grown in popularity over the past several years, with menu items typically including a dish’s title (often simply the featured ingredient) and a short list of ingredients to accompany it.

The minimalist approach brings with it a mystique that is useful in selling your food. Guests will be intrigued by how elements are combined, and this will provide your service staff the chance to speak about the items in more detail. Most of the time, this is highly effective in convincing guests to try out new dishes.

The description approach is the opposite of the minimalist, with the details laid out lovingly underneath each dish’s name. While this cuts out the middleman work your server might be doing, it can also have some drawbacks. Highlighted ingredients might get lost in the lengthier description, where a server might be able to focus more adequately on that. Additionally, technical jargon about cooking might not land with your guests – even some terms that restaurant folks find a little rote might go over the heads of your diners.

If you use the description approach to menu writing, just be careful not to get too wordy. “Grilled 14 oz center-cut New York steak with garlic roasted red potatoes” is good. But “Try our fabulous, world-famous char-grilled center-cut genuine 14 oz New York Strip steak served with golden brown oven-roasted red potatoes laced with tenderly sauteed garlic” is overkill and makes the item hard to decipher.

Make Your Guests Feel At Home

One of the key advantages of a well-designed menu is the way it subtly creates a sense of comfort. The experience of dining in a restaurant is often intended to stimulate multiple senses; the lighting, aesthetics, music, scents, and so on can captivate the mind, but they can also prove a little overwhelming. But an easy-to-navigate menu can serve as something of an anchor for your guests. If the menu is easy to move through, diners can make decisions quickly without experiencing choice paralysis. The less time they spend deciding about dinner options, the more they can enjoy it, and the better their overall experience.

Your Menu Can Be An Elevator Pitch

A well-designed menu also serves as a vehicle for conveying your restaurant’s concept without explicitly stating it. If, for example, your restaurant serves Mexican food but focuses on street tacos, your menu can communicate this focus using its design and layout. Simply center the section on street tacos so that the eye is naturally drawn to it, and maybe enlarge it a little, so it controls the space of the menu. With this center section dominating the menu’s design, your guests will automatically infer that tacos are your specialty and therefore they should try them.

Features of a Well-Designed Menu

So what does a well-designed menu look like? There’s no fixed answer to that question, but there are a few key components that every menu designer should consider.

Legibility

Your guests have to be able to read the menu, after all! There are a few considerations to make sure your menu is approachable to the eye:

  • Font Choice  There’s no shame in bringing a visually attractive or fun font to your menu, but make sure to choose something easy to read! You don’t want your guests to waste time or get frustrated trying to understand what they’re trying to read. Pick an attractive font, but make sure you choose one that is legible, first and foremost.
  • Space  If your menu components are too cramped or crowded, it will be difficult for guests to direct their focus. Don’t shy away from utilizing negative space to control your guests’ attention. Blank areas on your menu are a great way to ensure it doesn’t become overwhelming to read, making choosing menu items easier.
  • Less Is More  There’s nothing wrong with describing an item in some detail, but keep your descriptions short and focused. Lengthy and bloated item descriptions can become walls of unapproachable text very quickly. Descriptions should only exist to make your guests’ mouths water; you should edit out any text that doesn’t serve that purpose.

Thoughtful Layout

Layout is an incredibly effective tool in your arsenal when designing your menu. There are a couple of crucial components to a layout that you should consider:

  • Direction  Consider how your ideal dining experience is supposed to progress. Is there a strict order of courses? Are items intended for individuals, or is the meal supposed to be served family style? Having this intention in place when laying out your menu is enormously helpful. If you group items based on their intended location in the meal (appetizers, salads, mains, etc.), your guests have a clear path to progress, removing some guesswork from dining.
  • Grouping  If you serve your entrees with side dishes or pairings, your guest shouldn’t have to go hunting for them. Create a small box next to the main entree sections that contains these accompanying items so that making these choices can happen all at once. Guests enjoy feeling like they have a plan for approaching their meals, and tools like this can give them that sense of comfort.

Allergen Indicators

While not mandatory for most menus, including allergen indicators on your design can be hugely helpful for your guests and staff. You can accent dishes that don’t include common allergens like gluten, nuts, or dairy with discrete signifiers (a small “GF” next to gluten-free items, for example). You can also extend this treatment to plant-based dishes for vegan or vegetarian diners or include a signifier to show that dishes are halal. It’s important not to overdo it with signifiers; while the information is important, you must also consider how your menu will look. But having them present can save your guests the trouble of asking what they can and can’t eat and save your servers the trouble of explaining the same in great detail.

Go Forth And Create with MustHaveMenus

All of this might seem like a lot of information to sort through, but once you’re in the thick of designing your menu, it will be easy to see how these principles apply. By using MustHaveMenus, a service that offers more than 20,000 design templates for restaurant owners, you will be able to quickly and effectively design your menu with minimal stress.

What Does MustHaveMenus Have to Offer?

MustHaveMenus is a DIY menu design service that makes it easier (and cheaper) for restaurants to design high-quality menus. However, that isn’t all they offer. When you delve into their selection of templates, you’ll find flyers, sandwich boards, table tents, and templates for every type of menu you can imagine. Additionally, MustHaveMenus also provides QR codes, online menus, and more to round out their service.

To learn more about MustHaveMenus, check out their website and schedule a free demo.

 

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