8 essential restaurant menu design tips

Rebecca Creger

Great restaurant menu designs can enhance a dining experience, help customers makes satisfying choices and stimulate appetite. However, a menu is more than just a list of the dishes a restaurant has available; it is an advertising tool capable of communicating a restaurant’s identity and driving profit – if it’s well designed.

Here, we discuss several visual strategies in menu design that can help increase profit margins for your restaurant clients. Forewarned: you might leave hungry.

1. Be aware of eye scanning patterns

restaurant menu design eye-scanning patterns

For years, restaurants have been designing their menus under the assumption that customers’ eyes are naturally drawn to the “sweet spot” in the upper righthand corner, and placing their higher profit items there. However, new research suggests that customers tend to read menus like a book, starting in the top left corner.

2. Divide the menu into logical sections

restaurant menu design divide into sections

Make it easy for customers to search for dishes by arranging items sequentially and in logical groups, starting with the appetizers.

3. Use photos sparingly

restaurant menu design food photography

Photos of food are more commonly associated with junk mail fliers and big chain restaurants like Denny’s; not high-end restaurants. If you do use photos, they must be of extremely high professional quality, which may be costly. In general, it’s better to leave the quality of the food to the customer’s imagination, because not all food photography will appeal to everyone.

4. Consider using illustration

restaurant menu design illustration

Instead of photography, try using illustrations – they are more likely to be universally appealing and can help communicate the restaurant’s personality.

5. Don’t emphasize currency signs

restaurant menu design avoid currency signs

Don’t make customers overly aware of how much they’re spending. Studies have shown that customers are more likely to spend more when currency signs are omitted.

6. Consider using boxes

Restaurant menu design use boxes

Boxes draw attention to a group of menu items, and are often used by restaurant to promote dishes with the highest profit margins, like pasta and other carb-based items.

7. Typography

restaurant menu design typography

Effective typography will communicate a restaurant’s brand and result in a legible menu. Selection of typeface may depend on a number of practical factors, such as the amount of text needed to comfortably fit on the page. Using more than one typeface – say, to distinguish the names and descriptions of menu items – may help to guide customers through the menu.

8. Choose appropriate colors

restaurant menu design color choice

Select colors based on your target audience and the theme of the restaurant. Different colors have different psychological effects on a viewer, so your color scheme will help to set the mood of a restaurant as well as draws attention to certain food items. Maudie’s Tex Mex Restaurant menu design is a fresh take on the warm color scheme that is usually associated with Mexican cuisine

Have any restaurant menu design tips? Share in the comments!

The author

Rebecca Creger
Rebecca Creger

Rebecca was born and raised in the Bay Area, where she currently lives. She has a BFA in Design with a Visual Communications emphasis from UC Davis. Her passions include travel, design, pasta, and hanging out with her Beagle, Spud.

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