Menu Design | 3 mins read

Principles of Menu Design

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Cynthia Vespia

By Cynthia Vespia

Why Menu Design Is Important and How To Do It Right

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A restaurant's menu can work as a great marketing tool when it is designed in a specific manner. An effective menu design will clearly communicate the message of the brand, the cuisine being served and the expected guest experiences.

While a graphic designer can add elements of flair to a menu, it's up to the chef and restaurant owner to come together with the vision for the menu planning. The combined insight will guide the designer on a layout which complements the brand and the food theory within.

A five-star establishment and a local diner have the same needs when designing a menu. Each needs to look at the client demographic they're trying to reach. Once the statistics are in place, the chef can come up with dishes that will appeal to that customer base and the owner will set the pricing for it.

From there, the structural layout must be decided on and approved. Every creative aspect from fonts, color palettes, and use of space will need to be considered. The goal of the finished menu is to be eye-catching and appealing to guests while enticing them to order certain menu items. This can be achieved via the in-house menus that go on the tables and by an online presence where customers order through websites and mobile apps.

Keeping the brand highlighted throughout the menu design will let he customers become aware of the theme the restaurant represents. Clearly defining this element throughout the menu provides a better chance for repeat customers.

What Are The Principles of Menu Design?

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It's important to make sure the layout of the menu is specific to the restaurant when first diving into menu design. Having a unique look and feel that sets a restaurant apart from its competitors makes a difference towards retaining success. Other principles of menu design include the following-

Page Size
The size of the menu is the first element to menu design that needs to be decided. Everything else will fall within the pages of the menu so knowing how many dishes are being offered will greatly effect the page size. Most restaurants use a standard size for their menus, however there are some alternatives. Family-style restaurants which have a large quantity of options often use tabloid-size menus to ensure everything fits. Drinks, special dishes and happy hour specials often have their own menus which are a fraction small than a standard menu.

Using Columns
The use of columns provides a cleaner, more streamlined appeal. The size of the column width often differs based on cuisine. Fine dining menus use a single column with wide margins. While family-style restaurants opt for multiple columns to separate the variety of foods available into different sections.

Visual Appeal
Placement of food is often done by meal progression starting with appetizers, moving to entrees, with dessert on the back alongside beverages. However, there is room to play with the visual appearance and this is where a professional designer can help to provide ideas for placement. Some items like specials or limited time offers can be highlighted with colors or their own container boxes. The more eye-catching the menu is, the more the diner considers each category.

Achieve Balance
A sloppy menu design can imply the restaurant owner doesn't care about the details that go into it. Make sure the restaurant name and logo are prominently displayed but not in any way that is an affront to the rest of the menu. Columns should be neatly spaced and structured so they are of similar width and length. Text fonts flow in a way that's easy to read. The color scheme should match the restaurant's brand. Negative space should be used to complete the structural layout of the menu and achieve a sense of balance throughout.

  • Page size
  • Using Columns
  • Understanding placement
  • Visual appeal to draw attention
  • Proportion signifies choice
  • Everything balanced Principle

Conclusion to Menu Design

  • An effectively designed menu can increase sales revenue by directing the diner's attention to specific menu list items. The featured items should be dishes which earn the highest gross profit with the lowest food costs.
  • Having a unique look and feel included in the menu design will set a restaurant apart from competitors.