4 Mistakes To Avoid When Designing Your Menu

Published on: 04/16/2018 in Profit Driving Tips


An effective menu can be one of your strongest marketing tools as an operator, helping guests form an impression of your establishment before they’ve even placed an order. That’s why it should communicate what’s important to you as an operator as well as the choices of dishes you serve. Whether you’re trying to position your establishment as a trendy modern restaurant with farm-to- table cuisine or a simple minimalist eatery with daily specials, your menu can help tell your story.

When it comes to creating a well-designed menu, avoiding these common mistakes can help you establish your concept and stand out from the competition.

Mistake 1: Lack of Premium and High-Value Menu Claims

Not including premium ingredient claims and high-value attributes is a common mistake that could potentially cost you money in the long run. Make sure your menu clearly highlights high-quality ingredients and where they come from. High-value menu claims have been shown to help drive customer traffic and differentiate operations from their competitors.1 Plus, patrons report being willing to pay more for menu items that are described as “hormone-free,” “no preservatives” and “antibiotic-free.”2

Mistake 2: Poor Descriptions

Poor menu descriptions can cause your consumers and servers unnecessary frustration, not to mention potential missed sales opportunities. Longer, more detailed menu descriptions have been shown to sell nearly 30 percent more, according to a Cornell study. “The more copy you use for a menu item, the less it costs in a customer’s mind because you’re giving them more for their money,” explains menu engineer Gregg Rapp. Plain old “roast chicken” is transformed to “slow-roasted organic free-range chicken.” Customers even rated food as better tasting when the items had longer, more detailed descriptions.3

Mistake 3: Lack of Attention to Design

Believe it or not, the look and feel of your menu can influence guest experience. Consider consulting with a graphic designer who can help create a clean, aesthetically pleasing menu. Use of space, font style, size, color and paper quality are all important elements to consider, especially in relation to your restaurant. For example, your menu should complement the size of the table, place settings and even the lighting.4 Whether you use a simple menu printed on craft paper or a refined menu printed on a cream linen stock, it should be clear and easy to read.

Mistake 4: Ignoring Upselling Opportunities

Don’t forget to leverage the opportunity to upsell. Customization can be an easy way to upsell on your menu, especially since 72% percent of consumers now expect restaurants to allow them to customize meals.5 Allow guests to choose premium proteins like grass-fed beef, NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER chicken and turkey, organic chicken and wild-caught fish, either as additions (such as on a salad) or as entrées. Even offering special items like gluten-free ingredients can be a way to increase sales.

As your primary communication tool, your menu should be clear, well designed and most important, easy to read. Used effectively, your menu can help you see new profits and keep customers coming back.

1 Technomic, Consumer Attitudes Towards Value-Added Poultry in Foodservice, Oct. 2014
2 Technomic, The Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report, 2014
3 Hullinger, Jessica, 8 Psychological Tricks of Restaurant Menus, Mental Floss, March 30, 2016, http://mentalfloss.com/article/63443/8-psychological-tricks-restaurant-menus
4 Gyaan, Restro,10 Restaurant Menu Mistakes You Did Not Know That Are Killing Your Food Business, The Restaurant Times, Sep. 1, 2016, https://www.posist.com/restaurant-times/restro-gyaan/10-restaurant-menu-mistakes-not-know-killing-food-business.html
5 Cobe, Patricia, “How to Overcome the Challenges of Customizable Menus,” Restaurant Business, Jan. 18, 2016, http://www.restaurantbusinessonline.com/food/how-overcome-challenges-customizable-menus