10 Great Menu Design Tips for Restaurants

Delighted to welcome Camille Franc, Marketing Manager at 99designs as our guest blogger this month.  Camille joined 99designs in 2014 where he heads up European operations, creating strong brand identities for thousands of small business by connecting them with a pool of over 900,000 graphic designers worldwide.

A great restaurant menu has the ability to make customers feel precisely the way you want them to when they enter your establishment. As a result, menu design depends entirely on your restaurant; do you offer sophistication, adventure, comfort or a great steak?

When you get menu design right, you can significantly boost your profits. Camille Franc, 99designs Marketing Manager, offers you 10 critical visual strategies that can be incorporated into menu design.

1 – Beware Your Eye Scanning Assumptions

Restaurant owners are often guilty of assuming that customers focus on the top right hand corner of the menu but according to research, most people read a menu just as they would a book by starting at the top left corner.

Camille Eye Scanning

Design by Bright_Designs

2 – Make It Easy To Read

Common sense dictates that you should divide your choices into logical groups beginning with starters and concluding with desserts or drinks. Another mistake made by restaurants is to make their menus too large. If your menu is larger than a trifold, think of ways to shorten it; otherwise, your customers won’t be able to process all the information. The end result is that they get frustrated, give up and order something they don’t really want.

3 – Remove/Reduce Photos

Although you may think the picture of a big juicy steak will appeal to diners, the reality may be very different. In order to create the best impression of your food, the pictures will need to be of exceptional quality and this is an expensive process. Additionally, your idea of tempting food may well be at odds with that of your diners. It’s best to be careful in your use of photos and allow customers to use their imaginations instead.

4 – Be Clever With Pricing

First and foremost, get rid of currency symbols from your menus. According to a study performed by Cornell University, customers spend more when there are no currency symbols on menus.

Additionally, placing prices in a column will only result in diners choosing the lowest cost item. A clever trick is to stagger the prices three spaces from the last letter of the food’s description without any dashes or dots. This should help draw their attention away from the price.

5 – Have a Separate Dessert Menu

It is good practice to provide diners with the dessert menu once they have finished their main course. It is a big mistake to have dessert on your main menu because if a diner sees a dessert he fancies, he may elect to skip the starter.

6 – Choose Your Colour Scheme Carefully

If you are unaware of the psychology of colour, you could be making some errors on your menu design. Different colours have varied psychological effects on diners so your menu’s colours will effectively set the mood of your establishment while also drawing the eye to certain items. For example, Mexican restaurant menus are famed for their cheerful colour scheme to fit into the ‘fun’ theme of Mexican food.

7 – Utilise Effective Typography

The type of font you use on a menu also sets the mood. For example, you may notice that high class Italian and French restaurants often use elegant typefaces on their menus to offer yet another reminder that it is a high-end location.

For most restaurants, the first concern is to ensure the menu is legible so the font may be dictated by that consideration. It is also a good idea to use a second typeface to cause certain items to stand out thus making the menu easier to read.

Camille Effective Typography

Design by Bright_Designs

8 – Use Some Lower Case Lettering

While it is okay to capitalise the names of your dishes, you should use lower case lettering for descriptions as this will cause readers to slow down and prevent them from glossing over the entire menu.

9 – Use Illustrations

Instead of paying for professional photography, try adding illustrations to your menu. Unlike pictures of food, illustrations tend to be liked by most people and they can help effectively communicate the personality of the restaurant. It is far easier to be ‘funny’ with an illustration than a picture for example.

10 – Keep Things Boxed In

Boxes are a great design trick for menus as they help draw attention to a large group of items. It is typical for savvy restaurants to use this technique to promote menu items that carry the highest profit margin.

Remember that the average customer spends approximately 109 seconds on your menu so you need to quickly draw their attention to the places where you want them to look. The things that catch the eye immediately have a major advantage over things diners spot later on.

It is also crucial that you keep the menu relatively simple and easy to navigate while still ensuring the personality of your brand spills over. Great menu design can genuinely be the difference between soaring profits and empty seats.

If you are just opening a new restaurant and need help for your branding, I recommend you to download our free ebook and follow our tricks to build an appealing graphic design identity.