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How to create a restaurant menu
Business advice

How to create a restaurant menu

6 min read

A well-designed menu for your restaurant can create a positive first impression and give your customers an enjoyable dining experience. But working out how to plan a menu for your restaurant might not be as simple as it sounds. Here we summarise some tips on how to create a marvellous menu to do your delicious dishes justice.

The benefits of a good restaurant menu

There’s a lot of psychology at work when a customer orders items from a menu. Everything from the positioning of the items to the size of the font could influence a purchasing decision. Before we look at the importance of menu planning in greater detail, here are some of the benefits of smart menu design:

  • Boost your sales. Menus may give you the opportunity to upsell by putting optional extras next to each item. There’s a reason we’ve all heard the phrase ‘would you like fries with that?’.
  • Develop your brand. The design of your restaurant menu can echo the visuals you’ve implemented throughout your marketing and social media. This consistency could help customers remember your restaurant more easily.
  • Enhance the ordering experience. A menu with half a million items and swirly, unreadable font could frustrate your customers. A well-designed menu simply makes it easier for your customers to get what they want.

Sections of a restaurant menu

While every menu is different, here is a quick whistle-stop tour of what your restaurant menu could include:

  • Starters or appetisers
  • Main courses
  • Side dishes
  • Desserts
  • Drinks.

Additionally, depending on the nature of your restaurant, you may wish to categorise your menu into sub-categories, such as vegetarian or rice dishes, or Italian-style ‘primi’ and ‘secondi’ (first and second course) dishes. You could even create a separate menu for a delivery service, particularly if some dishes are easier to transport than others.

Factors to consider when planning a restaurant menu

Planning a menu may not be rocket science, but it’s far more complicated than writing a list and sending it to the printers. Here are five factors to consider when you start planning your menu.

The theme

You’ll need to decide what items make the cut on your restaurant menu, and how often you rotate it. One way of tackling this is to establish a consistent theme. Opening a seafood restaurant? It’s probably best not to sell burgers and chips next to your lobster linguine. Sticking with a list of core ingredients could help your customers understand what your restaurant is all about.

Number of items

There is a school of thought that says too many menu items can overwhelm a diner. Back in 2013, a Bournemouth University study found that diners prefer as little as six menu items for quick-service menus, and seven to ten items for fine dining. When planning your restaurant menu, does less mean more?

Positioning of items

The way you arrange your menu items may affect the frequency with which customers order different meals. Why not put your most profitable items near the top of the menu? Just as a supermarkets use psychological tactics, like putting expensive items at eye level, your menu could nudge diners towards certain items, particularly if you’re looking to sell certain products and freshen up your inventory. And if you’re looking for insights on which items are flying off the shelves, the Tyl portal (fees and eligibility criteria apply) can help you track your sales, which may help you work out your menu order.

Printing

Using a professional printer may cost you more money than printing it at home, but the investment could be worth it if your menu has a higher resolution and a superior print quality than your own handiwork. You could consider a laminate menu if you want something that’s easy to clean, which may be suitable for family restaurants where children may be responsible for a spillage or two. Casual dining establishments may be more suited to a lower grade of single use menu paper, but you could also consider recyclable paper or QR menus as a sustainable alternative.

Menu descriptions

It’s easy to overlook the copy on a menu, but there are many reasons why this might be a mistake. Clear and simple descriptions can save your staff from having to spend time answering questions, while accurate copy can set realistic expectations and reduce the likelihood of complaints if the dish doesn’t match the description. Why not do some research on your suppliers and see if you can add a local dimension to the copy? The mention of locally sourced ingredients may make your meals sound more appetising, with the added environmental benefit of lower food miles.

The importance of restaurant menu visuals

Visuals are one of the main things to consider when it comes to creating a menu. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Will you use photography? While photos can give customers an insight into what a dish looks like, sometimes you may wish to leave things to the imagination.
  • What colour scheme will you use? Muted colours may make a menu easier to read, while colours like green have connotations of healthy living.
  • What font will you use? It’s important that your diners can clearly distinguish between items, and the font size should take into account visually impaired customers. Fonts like Helvetica and Baskerville are just some of the options you could consider for your restaurant menu.
  • Where will your menu be displayed? A chalk board menu may look characterful, but some diners may prefer a table menu or QR code to access the menu from their own device, particularly at a time of pandemic restrictions or precautions.

How to price a menu

Pricing a menu is about more than just plucking numbers from the sky. First, you could consider the cost of your raw ingredients, and work out how much margin you should apply to each item – and the number of sales you need to make – in order to stay profitable. A gross profit margin calculator – like this one from Shopify (although there are many others available on the web) – could help you work out your optimum menu pricing.

Other factors may influence the prices you charge, like the amount of disposable income of your target audience, and other expenditure like business rates. And of course, some of the oldest tricks in the book – like pricing a product at 99p rather than £1 – could work in your favour. For more inspiration, read the Tyl Talks guide on how to price your products.

Templates for your restaurant menu ideas

Looking to get cracking and create your own restaurant menu? Here are a few template options to look into (although there are many other options available so you should always do your research):

More ideas from Tyl Talks

We all love our favourite local restaurants, but of course, there are so many day-to-day tasks to think about – from collecting deliveries to managing staff. See if any of our latest Tyl Talks guides can help you on your journey.

Disclaimer

This has been prepared by Tyl by NatWest for informational purposes only and should not be treated as advice or a recommendation. There may be other considerations relevant to you and your business so you should undertake your own independent research.

Tyl by NatWest makes no representation, warranty, undertaking or assurance (express or implied) with respect to the adequacy, accuracy, completeness, or reasonableness of the information provided.

Tyl by NatWest accepts no liability for any direct, indirect, or consequential losses (in contract, tort or otherwise) arising from the use of the information contained herein. However, this shall not restrict, exclude, or limit any duty or liability to any person under any applicable laws or regulations of any jurisdiction which may not be lawfully disclaimed.

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