Lots of people remember a restaurant from their past or even in their present in which they enjoyed a neighborhood kind of aura, friendly, laid back with some of the best food on the planet. The food might have been a mix of your everyday sandwiches and a steak to die for, or the food could have been something a five-star chef would turn out. The menu was a typed list of the food and its description, every now and then paired with a wine or beer to complement the food. The ambiance might have drawn people to the restaurant initially, but the food kept them coming back for more. Times change, though, and menus reflect that change. If you need to know how to create a good restaurant menu, we have five tips that will help.

1. Create the goal of the menu

A menu should represent the personality of the restaurant. Your brand is at stake, here, and the diner will recognize this in the menu. Diners should be impressed with the presentation and be ready to recommend the restaurant to one and all. We know that’s a tall order, you should pardon the pun, but take a look at American restaurant Cracker Barrel’s menu: homestyle fixin’s, Grandpa’s Country Fried Breakfast, fancy fixin’s, wholesome fixin’s –  we’re sure you get the idea. The whole aura is homey, comforting and the food filling for a great price.

Tip: Your menu should be logical. Begin with appetizers, followed by entrees, perhaps fixin’s, desserts then drinks. Pictures help, but don’t overload the menu. Just a few pictures and a personality-indicating description will do just fine.

2. Do your homework

You’ll need to research how a successful establishment presents its menu. Check online as well as the brick and mortar store. Figure in your own financials, marketing and potential sales. Look up either online or in a library professional publications describing what’s new and selling wildly in certain areas. Additionally, you’ll need to decide your personality. Shall your establishment be a beanery, a classy joint or quick-natured?  What do you do well, and will it sell in your area? Compare pricing, too.

Tip: Balance your food costs by offering several dishes using one ingredient. For example, if you offer a burger, offer to top it with ingredients from other dishes such as lobster, shrimp, gourmet cheeses, specialty sauces like truffle aiola, and even bacon and eggs.

A menu should represent the personality of the restaurant. Your brand is at stake, here, and the diner will recognize this in the menu.

3. Come up with a design

The eye follows many things, among them light and color. Highlight your specialties or any new ideas you’re trying out. Keep it simple. Stick to one easy to read font. Don’t make the menu sixteen pages; this annoys diners, who must search for what they want. One or two nicely typewritten pages tell diners what is available with no fuss. Remember that if you laminate your menu, you can’t change it without going back to the printer. Plastic covers allow you to update or change menu items when needed. Having more than one menu isn’t expensive, and it makes things easier on diners when they don’t have to get past breakfast items to get to lunch or dinner items.

Tip: The color of your menu should reflect the personality of your restaurant. For example, reds and yellows would feel natural in a restaurant serving spicy dishes, while blues and silvers would better suit a seafood restaurant. Place pictures or a special label around specialties or new menu items. Offer a variety of prices to suit a variety of diners. Keep the descriptions short and sweet.

4. Avoid mistakes

We’ve all handled menus that were taller than we were, heavy ones we almost couldn’t lift and menus that presented too much color or pictures for us to take in. Mistakes you want to avoid include making your print too small to read, excluding English terms for foreign dishes, menus without daily specials or weekly specials, and using generic clip art from the Web to illustrate dishes that won’t look like the pictures when they arrive.

Tip: You only get one chance to make a good first impression. Ensure your menu presents your restaurant’s personality without all the hype.

Analyzing which dishes sell the best and which are slower in comparison to your competition should enter the pricing picture.

5. Price it right

Items like certain meats and cheeses tend to fluctuate in price, and we mean going up not down. Keeping this in mind, price your dishes competitively with other restaurants of your type. If the prices of your ingredients go up, cover it by raising prices by a dollar or two. Most diners won’t notice a slight rise in price, but they’ll know instantly if a six to ten dollar price increase will strain their budget. Not everyone can afford filet mignon, so offer dishes lower in price but just as tasty.

Tip: Examine your menu from a customer’s point of view. Taking pictures of the food will give you an idea if the dishes are worth what you’re charging. Analyzing which dishes sell the best and which are slower in comparison to your competition should also enter the pricing picture.

How your restaurant is perceived by diners begins with your menu. Making it attractive, fun and properly priced is essential to weather the changes happening in restaurants today. Want some menu design ideas? Head over to Envato or Graphic River to browse and download.

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