20 Tips and Tricks for Making the Most of Your Restaurant Menu
You might have the best food in town, but if customers don’t order it, your restaurant is doomed. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your menu is the best it can be. Taking a few simple steps to plan, organize, and design your menu can make a world of difference to your restaurant’s success. Here are 20 ideas that can help you take your restaurant menu to the next level.
1. Organize your menu logically.
Don’t make your customers perform a scavenger hunt when they just want to eat. Make it easy for them to find what they want by organizing in a way that makes sense—appetizers first, desserts last, etc.
2. Give your best dishes the best placement.
This might seem obvious, but don’t hide your star items. Put them front and center where they’re easy to find! Customers eyes are most often drawn to the upper right hand corner or the center of the page, so consider placing your biggest sellers in those locations.
3. Be resourceful.
Do you have a burger on your menu? Add a few different toppings or a new sauce and you have an entirely different menu item without adding much cost. And if you offer a shrimp salad, create a shrimp pasta, pizza, or risotto dish as well to get the most out of your ingredients.
4. Create something special.
Lots of menus feature pizza, sandwiches, or salads, so make yours stand out. Try tweaking a classic by adding a signature change that fits your restaurant’s brand.
5. Keep your language simple.
You might think your double entendres are funny and your pretentious cooking terms are sophisticated, but they’ll probably just annoy your customers. It’s okay to show some personality, but keep the focus on your food, not your words.
6. Keep it manageable.
Simply put, one restaurant can’t possibly excel at every dish on a ten page menu. It’s better to keep your menu on the shorter side and spotlight your strong points. Customers would rather choose from 10 amazing dishes than 100 so-so ones.
7. Update when you need to.
Food prices and availability change—so should your menu! Feel free to remove something that’s become too costly or to add in a few seasonal vegetables.
8. Choose the right visuals.
Don’t decorate your menu with generic clip-art; this is distracting and doesn’t add much for your customers. On the other hand, if you decide to include photos of your actual food, be sure to choose photos that make your dishes look as appetizing as possible. Food photography is tricky, so you might want to consider hiring a professional photographer.
What’s more unappetizing than a typo? You definitely don’t want your customers to notice your mistakes instead of your food. Don’t just rely on spell-check; be sure to have multiple pairs of eyes look for errors.
10. Keep it short.
Remember, you’re writing a menu, not a novel. Of course you want to include relevant information that will make your dishes sound delicious, but make sure your descriptions don’t get too long.
11. Pay attention to color.
What kind of cuisine do you serve? Does your restaurant have a theme? The answers to these questions can influence the colors you choose for your menu. For example, a quiet French bistro would probably choose different colors than a boisterous Mexican place.
12. Watch your fonts.
Never, ever use a font that’s hard to read! If your customers can’t read your menu, they won’t order anything off of it.
13. Don’t laminate.
Once your menu is laminated, you’re stuck with it (unless you want to do some costly reprints). You’ll probably want to change your menu at least once a year, so use plastic covers that make it easy to slide in a new menu.
14. Get feedback.
Have some customers read over your menu and give you their honest opinions. Does everything sound good? Are your descriptions confusing? What needs to change?
15. Know your competition.
If you’re a pizza place, check out other pizza joints in your area. What are their menus like? Their prices? How can you make your menu stand out?
16. Use numbers if you need them.
Does your restaurant serve a cuisine that isn’t necessarily familiar to customers? Customers might be reluctant to order something they can’t pronounce, so consider numbering meals to make it easier on them.
17. Have more than one menu.
Remember, you don’t have to cram everything, from breakfast to drinks to dessert, onto the same menu. Separate menus for different times of day or different courses can reduce distractions for your customers.
18. Label special dishes.
Do you offer vegetarian or vegan meals? What about gluten-free or heart-healthy dishes? Your customers with dietary restrictions will appreciate being able to easily find meals they can eat.
19. Offer a variety of prices.
Of course it would be great if every customer ordered your most expensive menu item, but you have to provide choices for people with smaller budgets. Try including some sandwiches with your steaks.
20. Don’t be afraid to change your prices.
If ingredient prices have changed, don’t think you have to keep your menu prices the same just to keep customers happy. Chances are good that they won’t even notice a change, as long as it’s a small one!
Creating a great restaurant menu doesn’t have to be hard–just keep your customers in mind. By creating a menu that’s engaging and easy-to-read while also reflecting your restaurant’s brand, you’ll put your restaurant on the right track!
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