Menus are an important yet often overlooked tool in restaurant promotion. When designed correctly, a menu can convey a specific brand image, nudge consumer choices, and increase sales of side dishes, desserts, and other complementary items. If your current menu is not helping in these areas or is due for an update anyway, you can improve it by following these dos and don’ts.
- Do organize your menu logically so customers can order a meal without having to flip back and forth several times. The most common arrangement is to place appetizers first, entrees and side dishes next, and beverages and desserts last, but feel free to choose something that works best for the kind of food you offer.
- Do focus on writing tantalizing food descriptions as a means of stimulating enthusiasm and appetite. Highly descriptive words such as “melty,” “silky,” and “creamy” appeal to the senses and allow you to promote dishes that will put your commercial cheese melter, ice cream maker, and other restaurant equipment to good use.
- Do understand consumer tendencies when it comes to reading menus and use this knowledge to print your selections accordingly. For example, the top right of the menu is the first place people look while the bottom left is typically the last, and the dish listed first in each category tends to be the one customers choose most often. Reserve the best spots for the items you wish to highlight.
- Do make your menus easily accessible. Keeping menus in tabletop menu holders rather than having waitstaff remove them after taking orders is not only more convenient for customers, but also encourages additional browsing and may lead to an increase in dessert and beverage sales.
- Don’t be afraid to adjust prices when ingredient costs go up or down for a sustained period. Occasional—and reasonable—hikes are to be expected, and are largely tolerated by customers.
- Don’t print your menus in an unusual font that’s difficult to read. You’ll save your customers and waitstaff from a lot of unnecessary frustration if you stick to readable fonts.
- Don’t add pretentious details to your food descriptions. Unless phrases like “farm to table” or “all-organic ingredients” are vital to your eatery’s overall marketing strategy, few customers will care how the produce was harvested or how the chicken was raised prior to ending up on their plate.
- Don’t hesitate to revamp the menu periodically. Whether you do this seasonally, when there’s a major personnel change in the kitchen, or to tie in with specific promotions, your customers will welcome and appreciate some new selections.
One of the first interactions customers have with any restaurant is through the menu, so getting it right is paramount. Use the above tips when designing or improving your own menu to ensure you project the desired image and showcase your best dishes.