When running a restaurant, designing the menu is key to piquing a customer’s interest.
Not only do delectable dishes make customers ravenous, but they’ll also pay more attention to the menu’s aesthetics and spend more time looking at their options.
Here are 17 eye-catching restaurant menus that will entice any (hungry) customer!
1. Your Menu is All About Branding
Your restaurant’s menu is one of the first items customers will see — and that’s their overall first impression of the restaurant. Reinforce the ambiance of your establishment; don’t contradict it.
What most eateries fail to realize is how the menu involves all five the senses, just like any other presentation: Customers walk in, see the interior design, smell the food and hold the menu.
Vera, a Spanish cafe, printed its menu on textured boards. Prices are applied via stickers, allowing hostesses to easily update them.
2. Let the Menu's Design Guide Customers
Your customers want to enjoy some good food and down time, not read a dissertation. Let your menu’s simple design guide them along. Use typography, colors, lines and shapes to highlight certain dishes without customers realizing a dish is even being suggested.
On a two-page layout, customers typically look on the right-hand page, just above the middle. You can use this spot to highlight your best dishes.
Lucy’s Fried Chicken (in Austin, Texas) uses a basic black, white and light green-blue palette through the menu design and features a box and splash of yellow at the exact spot to encourage customers to purchase the dish.
3. The Color Conundrum
Color plays a big role in how people process food, even before eating it. Blue is a soothing color, and its effects include making customers less hungry. Contrast that with red and yellow, which increase hunger and might prompt a larger entree or an appetizer order before the meal.
For a nutrition-conscious menu, a dose of green will help convince customers to purchase a healthy dish, while white makes people forget about calories.
From Stockholm, Sweden, Mix n’ Go uses colors to convey its healthy message and food options.
4. Let's Talk About Lettering
Typography can make or break any visual medium, so your branding style will make most of these choices for you.
For example, a stiff Gothic font won’t mesh well with a Tex-Mex menu theme, nor would using Comic Sans be appropriate for a fine-dining establishment.
Popote’s (in Brooklyn, New York) gets this right: The text is thin, but the two Os in the name pop out and give the menu a great look.
5. Time (Really) is Money
According to Thrillist, the average consumer looks at a menu for 109 seconds.
Knowing that you have less than two minutes to guide your customer around your entire menu, you have some tough decisions to make: Will the menu be small to give customers the total picture? Will you use design elements to make certain dishes pop out at the expense of other items?
Although Mama Joy’s in Brooklyn is now closed, their menu did a little of both. It was two pages long, and the use of typography and color easily identified items and prices.
6. Currency Kills
When people eat out, the restaurant’s role is to provide great food and atmosphere. One of the best ways to kill the mood is by highlighting how their meals will devour half of a paycheck.
A 2009 study found that displaying the price in simple numerals but without “$” — or worse, “£” or “€” — will cause people to spend significantly more than if the menu they were viewing displayed a monetary symbol.
Second Home Kitchen and Bar (out of Denver, Colorado) features this design and totally nails the textured look with a leather-bound drink menu.
7. Using Cents Makes No Sense
In addition to dropping the dollar sign, your menu would be better served by losing “.50″s and “.99″s. Tacking on the cents might improve your profit margin per sale, but customers will hesitate to pull the trigger on enjoying such a meal.
If you can’t afford to take a hit on the cents and rounding up is an even worse choice, “.95” is tamer and more appealing than “.99.” While parallel structure is nice, attaching a “.00” to dollar amounts scares customers away from a meal they otherwise would have tried.
Boston-based The Sinclair’s menu is an excellent example of this.
8. Boxed Menus Engage the Customer's Attention
Menu boxes draw eyes to specific content inside. By boxing one dish on the menu, the customer’s brain fixates on that dish, even if he or she is looking somewhere else.
On this menu from Calexico’s, a Swedish restaurant that serves Mexican food, your eyes are drawn down in a zigzag pattern from the top-right (which, by the way, is one of the most examined areas of a menu) to the middle and then to the bottom-right. This way, customers can think about getting dessert even before placing a drink order.
9. Be Wary of Using Columns
Columns might be aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but using them actually detracts from the dining experience.
Unless everything costs the same amount, putting prices in a column will cause diners to search for cheaper options, even if they desire something else. Once prices take precedence over food options, the customer’s enjoyment will begin to decline.
Mason’s in Nashville, Tennessee might have its items in a column but the prices aren’t.
10. It's All In the Details
Descriptive menu labels can increase sales by up to 27 percent. There are four main ways to pull this off, each with a different style.
Menus can invoke geographic aesthetics (such as a southwestern flair), trigger a nostalgic rush with a phrase like “ye olde potato bread,” increase taste by appealing to senses (who wouldn’t love a buttery plump shrimp meal right now?) or piggyback on other marketing campaigns by using brand names such as Jack Daniel’s sauce.
13 Wives in Singapore pushes this idea to the extreme, with each drink getting an entry in the little black book that serves as the menu.
11. Use Uppercase Fonts Sparingly
Capitalizing the names of your restaurant’s dishes is fine, but if you have descriptions that follow, abandon capitalization. An intrigued customer will take his or her time to read it, which can build too much anticipation up.
An exception to this would be for words that should be capitalized already, such as a Swiss cheese burger or a buttered Maine lobster.
Operating in Charleston, South Carolina, Edmund’s Oast is a great example for incorporating capitalization correctly.
12. Don't Paralyze Your Customers With Too Many Options
While the average customer might take a short peek at a menu, some pickier eaters will take much longer to find the perfect dish. Sometimes even the person who likes everything takes the longest to discover what he or she wants.
A good guideline to follow is no more than 10 appetizers, 10 entrees — with a vegetarian option for each — and 6 desserts (which have their own rule coming up next).
The Swan Hotel (in Maldon, England) has a small menu that any customer can examine carefully but quickly.
13. Ditch the Desserts (On Another Menu)
First off, desserts have five Cs that should be included on any dessert menu: citrus, coffee, caramel, chocolate and cheesecake.
Desserts should be printed on their own separate menu, so customers can focus on ordering the main course and focus on dessert afterward. When the desert menu is handed to customers after their main meal, they’ll have time to digest just enough food to make room and be tempted all over again.
While San Francisco’s The Alembic keeps its dessert selection with everything else, they manage to have the five Cs in four items.
14. Use Photos at Your Own Risk
Placing photos are tricky when it comes to menu designs. For some places, a well-positioned picture of a meal will entice people into purchasing it.
At fancier restaurants, a picture is worth a thousand words — all of them negative. It depends on the vibe of the restaurant.
Smith (in Toronto, Canada) somewhat straddles the line. The establishment’s menu features photos, but by making the pictures the focal point and removing the color, the menu goes from cheesy to iconic.
15. Menus Can Talk Back
A menu’s design can say so much about a restaurant, but they can also engage in a conversation with diners. An anchor — a dish with a price so high that other high prices near it look cheap — can ease concerns some people might have about ordering an otherwise costly meal.
Burying low-profit items in corners can suggest a customer is being cheap by having to dig for the best price on the menu.
In this half of a menu from Smoke House (in Newport, Rhode Island), the price for the combo platter for four,$68, makes the rest of the menu look cheap by comparison.
16. Experiment With Alternative Designs
Not every menu has to be a laminated rectangular sheet of paper. Just like Vera (in our first example) is printed on wood, your restaurant might be better served by breaking from traditional designs.
El Apartamento features its best dishes as greatest hits and then accentuates that motif by using vinyl covers as its menus.
17. All-in-All, Be Different
While each menu has a minimalist feel, Fade St. Social in Dublin is pretty much the opposite of that.
There is so much happening on this cover, let alone the food inside — which is perfect for getting patrons who buy a round of drinks they otherwise might have skipped over.
Start Creating Your Next (Delectable) Menu!
Creating your restaurant’s menu is a big deal. A great menu can make any so-so restaurant’s profits soar, while a poor menu can cause fantastic establishment to flounder.
Designing the perfect menu for your restaurant is like creating a signature dish: Each ingredient is good in its own right, but a masterpiece will bring them together to create something incredible.
Photo sources: elcalotipo.com, behance.net, inspirationfeed.com, underconsideration.com, creativebloq.com.