Any robust restaurant marketing plan must comprise a good restaurant menu design. A good menu reflects the business’ personality, lends focus to the operations, increases profitability, enables the setting of budget estimates, and always keeps the brand image high.
Restaurateurs can change the game by using a digital menu on their own professional restaurant website and enabling online food ordering.
What is a Menu
Let us first understand what a menu means before delving into the details of menu design and engineering.
A menu is a list of food items or drinks offered by a restaurant for purchase or the list of items that will be served (on and off-premise)
Significance Of A Good Restaurant Menu Design
A good restaurant menu design matters a lot for restaurant business as it is one of the most dynamic and flexible parts of a comprehensive marketing plan. Optimizing a digital menu for online ordering will ensure the success of the business and promote profitability in the long run.
Five Primary Types Of Restaurant Menu
The five fundamental types of restaurant menu are:
A La Carte Menu
When each menu offering and its price are mentioned separately, offering greater choice and flexibility to customers, it is an A La Carte Menu. This is a French term meaning ‘by the card’ or ‘according to the menu’.
Du Jour Menu
This menu will vary from day to day depending on what the chef has prepared, the specialty of the day, or what is available on a specific day. ‘Du Jour’ is once again a French term meaning ‘of the day.
A menu where the list of food items are repeated in a cyclic fashion or rotational manner throughout a certain period is known as a cycle menu. This is most often used by cafes that serve one type of sandwich on Monday, another type on Tuesday, a third variety only on Wednesday, and so on for a period of 7 days.
A menu of a restaurant in which the larger portion usually does not change in terms of the food or beverage items offered is called a static menu. While such a menu offers greater consistency, it also gives customers a better dining experience with more choices and flexibility. A static menu can be on paper, displayed on digital boards, or even be a QR code from which customers get redirected to the menu page.
In a fixed menu, a few items are listed along with a fixed price. Table d’hote menu and prix fixe menu are the two types of fixed menus. From a table d’hote menu, customers can choose two or three options from categories like appetizers, entrees and desserts and pay a fixed price for it. Whereas in a prix fixe menu, diners can choose only one option from menu categories like appetizers, entrees and desserts. Prices will vary according to the customized option chosen by the customer.
Steps To Create A Stunning Restaurant Menu
Considering the Intended Restaurant Concept
The crucial first step is to comprehend and honor the core concept of the food business. Once the core business area and cuisine have been identified, then the restaurant should supplement the main cuisine with other suitable dishes. For example, a coffee shop can offer sandwiches, waffles, salads, burgers, etc.
It should also make a list of the tradeoffs – items that are purposefully avoided to stick to the core concept. This will help the restaurant streamline its kitchen operations and also find out the dishes that customers are patronizing.
Categorizing The Menu Into Sections
Once the core concept identification is done, it is now time to categorize the menu items into different sections. For instance – Soups & Starters, Salads, Entrees, Appetizers, Main Course, Vegetarian Dishes, Seafood, Chicken, Pasta Varieties, Desserts, etc.
Categorizing menu items into different sections enables customers to easily locate what they want to eat, making the ordering process smooth. This increases the number of orders and thereby, profits. Also, a well-organized menu makes inventory management and report preparation on food sales extremely easy.
Accommodating Food Allergies and Dietary Restrictions
While it is important to stick to the primary menu, restaurants also need to be sure not to exclude anyone. A pescatarian visiting a steakhouse must find a handful of fish dishes as well. Similarly, vegetarian dining at a seafood restaurant should be offered a considerable amount of choices. People on restrictive diets like keto or paleo must be accommodated as well. Certain people are allergic to certain foods. So, restaurants should plan the ingredients in such a way that they can be customized by the customer and yet stay within the concept.
Setting Menu Prices
The prices on the menu card must be a subtle balance between profitability for the restaurant and affordability for the customer. Usually, the food cost is about 25% to 30% of the menu price. But, this figure may vary depending on the nature of the food served. For instance, items like pasta and desserts have higher markups as compared to other menu items. By choosing vendors who supply quality ingredients at nominal rates, restaurants can ensure higher profits while maintaining superior food standards.
Once the primary planning is complete, the restaurant must now create a customer-facing menu. This is where menu engineering comes into play.
Menu Engineering is the process of cautiously and deliberately designing a restaurant menu to drive higher ROI and profits.
Several psychological studies have proven that a customer’s attention is always drawn to the top-most menu items. So, restaurants must use wise tactics to enable people to notice profitable portions and order from them. Using a highly impactful visual design supplemented by descriptions for each dish makes a perfect menu design.
Uploading the menu to the Restaurant Menu
Digital menus offer easy access to diners. So, once the menu design is complete, it must be uploaded to the restaurant’s website. 77% of diners visit the restaurant website before choosing to dine in. So, digital menus are a crucial marketing tactic for any modern restaurant.
Digital menus pave the way for on and off-premise online ordering and payments. Additionally, when QR codes are placed on the tables, guests can gain quick access to the menu, review it, place orders and also complete the transaction with online payment.
In this era of the new normal, such contactless dining is now in vogue. Such an option is of great help for short-staffed restaurants.
Revisiting menu options
Menu engineering involves not just designing a menu, but also revisiting it for regular analysis. Restaurateurs must revisit the menu once or twice a year and analyze the profitability and popularity of every menu item.
Menu engineering is, therefore, an actionable, insightful way to make the menu a money spinner.
Examples of Awesome Restaurant Menus
The simple and effective menu of this restaurant in London, UK has individual square boxes that highlight high-margin items and makes navigation easy.
The simple illustrations of this restaurant’s menu bring life to the entire menu.
Kittyhawk Cocktail Bar
The menu design of this bar in Sydney, Australia is concept-based – bringing the restaurant’s history to life for the sake of the customers.
A menu design need not always be about stunning images. Even a clean, elegant, and easy to navigate menu can get the job done.
The Dead Rabbit
The cocktail menu of this outlet in New York resembles a graphic novel narrating an interesting tale behind every drink on the card.