Design Science: How to Create an Effective Restaurant Menu

The right menu has a balance of lay-out, pricing, images, and descriptions. Find out here the design science on how to create an effective restaurant menu.

The restaurant industry can be very competitive, and it’s estimated that 59% of hospitality businesses will fail within their first three years of operation.


This means if you own or manage a restaurant you want to make sure you’re doing everything possible to keep customers coming back for more. One way to do so is to present a well-designed menu. Your menu is an important marketing piece for your business that can drive or deflate sales.

Read on to learn what elements of menu design work best to entice your dinners and sell your dishes.

Choose an Appropriate Color Scheme

Your menu’s colors should match your establishment’s theme and other promotional components such as your website and logo. Your color choices should be appropriate for your restaurant’s brand. Earth tones and neutrals, for example, would work well for an upscale steakhouse while festive and bright hues are a good match for a family-friendly Mexican restaurant.

Group Items Into Sections

Your menu should guide customers through their dining experience by grouping items together into their own sections. Start with listing the appetizers, soups, and salads, then the entrees and side dishes.

Desserts should be listed last or on their own separate menu, giving you another branding opportunity.

Make Their Mouths Water with Appetizing Descriptions

Your menu should give diners a concise taste of what a dish is about. A good description isn’t too long or wordy yet paints a picture in the diner’s mind of what they can expect. The main ingredients that make up the dish should be included as well as carefully chosen adjectives that describe the texture or flavor of components. 

Your font choice, size, and color should be easy to read—neither too big nor too small. Using a menu template to design your menu will give you good options for choosing colors and fonts. You’ll also see a preview that shows how the layout looks before you print it.

Use Photos Sparingly

While you may be tempted to show off your dishes with tantalizing photos, less is more when it comes to placing photography in your menu. Too many images are associated with menus for chains and budget restaurants. Save the photos for your website, or use just one or two per page to highlight your star dishes or to show ingredients instead of a meal.

Instead of photos, consider using illustrations or graphical elements. They can add personality and compliment your brand better than photos can.

Highlight Special Dishes or Options

You can call out a special dish or appetizer on a menu page by placing a box or other design element around it. This can be done to highlight pricier menu items.

Customers also tend to read or scan menus from the upper left-hand corner to the bottom right-hand one, so you may want to call out dishes where their eyes will go.
Omit Currency Signs
Many restaurants choose to list a number next to a menu item to indicate the price. That’s because at least one study has shown that omitting currency signs from menus influence customers to spend more.

Good Menu Design Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

Menu design does require a little bit of foresight and planning as part of your restaurant’s overall success. Now that you know the above tips, however, you should be able to create a menu that peeks interest and sells your items.

Here at Bartender HQ, we love sharing food, entertaining, and restaurant management tips with our readers. Check out our drink recipes for great cocktails to add to your restaurant menu!

About The Author
- Flair Bartender. Mixologist. Bar Consultant. Bar Team Trainer. Podcaster. Cocktail Blogger. Scotch Drinker. PR friendly.

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