Whether you are making a menu for your own restaurant or have been hired by someone else to do so, here are the steps your should take and factors to consider during the menu creation process.
1. Make a layout of all menu elements
To begin with you will probably limit yourself to categories, names of sections and appropriate graphics. This is a mistake most establishments make. First choose a colour scheme that corresponds to your restaurants style. For an unusually themed restaurant the use of dark colours will convey seriousness and professionalism.Use warm, subtle colours for romantic settings to give off a pleasant vibe. If you plan to cater to a younger demographic, or perhaps just something less ordinary, bright, vibrant colours would be appropriate.
Your menu should represent the orders of your clients and dishes served. Eateries that are open all day, for example, would contain Breakfast, Lunch, Snacks, Dinner and finally Desert. Traditionally simple beverages (water, soft drinks, tea) are placed at the very end while more specialised drinks (wines, cocktails) are usually placed in a separate list or insert, as well as wine, cocktail and bar menus.
Visually break up your menu into sections. This can be done by either having large, simple headers separating each category or, if you offer a large assortment of dishes, by having each section start on a separate page. Should you have a broad range of products available you may need to have main sections (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) in addition to smaller subsections (Fish, Avian, Vegetarian, Salad).
Other possibilities for sections include:
- Region (Italy, France, Spain)
- Style (Barbecue, Stir Fry, Soup, Smoked meats)
- Popularity (Recommended dishes, Client favourites)
2. List: Name, Products and Price
The easiest way to do this is by writing in a column (Product, Description, Price). Ensure that the description is sufficiently clear as well as making sure it easy to relate which price and description corresponds to each dish. This is especially important if the font size is small as this can lead to difficulty in tracking what goes with what. A simple method is to connect the information about one item with a period line (…). Remember that variety is generally a good idea:
A simple segregation of dishes by category makes any menu easy to read and accessible. This helps when choosing a dish and avoids your clients from feeling any discomfort.
Make sure there are several dishes that are economically priced (have an average lower price than other menu items) as well as certain more expensive orders. Having dishes tailored to specific diets is also highly recommended. This may include meals suitable for; Vegetarians, Vegans, Children or people on low calorie diets but can also incorporate sufferers of heart-vein conditions and diabetics and so on. Look into options for special offers such as during specific hours for pensioners, war veterans and other groups. Here you can have discounts on certain dishes or reduced portions for lowered prices during these times.
Examine dishes that can be modified for small fees. Calculate how much these would cost and absolutely include them in your menu. An example would be "Replace baked potatoes with any other side dish of your choice for an additional $1.50"
3. Describe every dish
Each product should have a descriptive, informative name. Something like "Bread with filling" won't do, however "Savoury bread seasoned with Arugula and Horseradish Aioli" immediately seems more inviting to your readers. After this include a short list of all components of the dish. Aim to be concise yet complete in this part listing all ingredients; "Arugula, Aioli, mushrooms, tomatoes and swiss cheese on toast"
Additionally it's worth it to pay attention to special symbols or words that could be used to show specificity in dishes and help distinguish them from others.
- Dishes that are more Spicy / Hot than others on the menu.
- Dishes that have ingredients people could be allergic to (nuts, sea products)
- Dishes designed for people with special dietary requirements (Vegetarians, Vegans, Kosher, Low caloric [include exact calorie count], Low sodium, low acid etc)
4. Add photographs with caution
Taking a photograph you dishes yourself is very difficult. If you can afford to hire a professional photographer then do so as depictions can make a dish look more appetising. However the actual product with it's three dimensions, aroma, chance to feel the warm dish makes even the best photographs seem like bad imitations that aren't capable of conveying the necessary information on the dish. In general it is best to leave the view of the dish up to the clients imagination.
5. The question of design layout is decided on the second round of menu creation
This time focus on font, edges, intervals and overall view:
Use a simple font style. Do not choose silly fonts that can be amusing but have tendencies to look unprofessional. Also don't attempt to use any more than 3 different fonts throughout the entire menu as this will lead to a funny look.
Use big, clear fonts for restaurants with elderly clientele. People buy more if they can easily read your menu.
For menus with a large choice a numerical system of identification is often used where each dish is given a number and these numbers proceed chronologically throughout the entire menu. This will make client-waiter understanding much easier. For example "I'd like number 45 please".
Try to visually even out every page by distributing dishes across the entire page. The page doesn't look balanced? Certain sections look unfilled?! You don't have any more offers in the current section?
6. Choose the final option
Check that the owner of the restaurant, the manager and the chef all approve of the final design and content. Additionally have an someone on the side as they can make some last minute suggestion. Things that might seem obvious to someone in the know may not be so evident to a professional. It is always a good idea to show your final design to an impartial observer before finalising the decisions.
7. Proof-reading and printing of the final design.
Go through every inch of the menu one last time as mistakes in a menu is a sign of the quality of the establishment. You can also hire a professional redactor in case you missed something.
Be ready for seasonal changes in the menu. Having dishes that aren't offered year round on a separate (similarly themed / styled) sheet is much cheaper than reprinting numerous copies of the main menu. Make sure to get an agreement between the managers and the chef of the restaurant before you go any further otherwise you may never finish the menu since you will have to constantly be join back and changing things.
Menu reprint and possible change in layout- It is a good idea to do this any time there is a change in the menu as this will force your clients to notice the new offers and try them and perhaps even old dishes that they didn't notice before.
Never print your menu at home unless you own a professional grade laser printer. The cost of having your menu printed at a specialised company is relatively low when compared to the positive effect of a high quality print will have on customers.
Any time there is a change concerning pricing ask the owner to include several new products and restructure your menu. Guests who see the same items for offer with an increased pricing may may just get up and leave for another restaurant.