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11 Tips for Writing an Effective Menu

The average customer views the menu for 109 seconds so we understand the pressure of making a strong first impression… But what about the second and third impression? We discuss a lot about having the right menu cover to effectively reflect your establishment’s image, but here we focus on the words beyond the cover. Read on for 11 valuable tips for writing an effective menu.

1 Limit the options.

A lot of options is overwhelming, right? Your customer feels the same when it comes to your restaurant. We like the look and feel of about 7-10 appetizers, 7-10 entrees, and 4-6 desserts. Limited menu options will also limit the questions your wait staff receives, leading to faster turnover rates.

If you have more dishes you’d like to offer, don’t forget the option to rotate your menu items out. This is great for returning customers and can be quick and easy to do with the right menu cover.

2 Use keywords and adjectives.

More copy means more clutter and less value. The key is to make it sound intriguing with as few words as possible. Use luxurious adjectives and keep it simple. Your salad isn’t assembled with mixed greens. It’s made with “freshly harvested micro greens.”

Don’t forget keywords either. “Locally-sourced,” “organic,” and “wild-caught” are just a few keywords that increase the value of the menu items in your customers’ minds. Make sure your lemonade is “fresh-squeezed” and your wine is “New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc” versus “Sauvignon Blanc.”

Elegant Wine

3 Placement is key.

Eyes go to the top of the right page first. Then they go to the top of the left page, typically where appetizers are located, then down the left page, back over to the right, and down the right page. Some restaurants may choose to place their most profitable items in these top attention spots. Others will choose to put their customer favorites in these locations.

Tip: To draw more attention to a particular menu item, space it out further from the rest to add negative space around the item. You can also define the item by adding a box around it.

4 Write and stagger the price like this.

Throw dollar signs out the door. They will only hurt your menu and your customer. Writing “10” instead of “$10.00” takes the pressure off the customer and allows them to put up a mental block on the money their spending.

Do not keep prices in a column or use dotted lines for customers to easily track the prices. This leads to customers price shopping for their food instead of selecting the best menu items. We recommend adding the price just a few keyboard spaces following the item description.

5 Do you know the “expensive decoy” trick?

This so-called trick involves adding a very pricey item at the top of the page and everything else below it. Rarely will a customer purchase that top item; however, every customer will perceive the following items as reasonably priced.

Upscale Food

6 Nostalgia is real. Use it.

Offering traditional food items is a great way to trigger warm childhood or family memories for customers. Provoke this even further with nostalgic adjectives. Use a few discreet ones like “Classic Caesar Salad,” “Traditional Chicken Pot Pie,” or “Homemade Meatloaf.”

You can also face the nostalgia head on with terms like, “Grandma’s Brownies” or “Dad’s Sloppy Joe.”

7 Add photos.

The right number of photos can work wonders for your establishment. Some studies show that a quality photograph next to a food item can increase its’ sales by 30%. This concept works as a bell-curve in terms of effectiveness. Too many photos will have your menu items perceived as lower quality. Menu photos are not recommended for elegant, high-end restaurants; however, they can work financial wonders for most other restaurants.

8 Utilize colors.

The colors you should be using depend on the atmosphere and goal of your restaurant. Greens and brown are a good combination for health-oriented restaurants. Black and midnight blue are great for exuding elegancy and a high-end feel. Bright colors are perfect for bakeries, candy shops, and any establishment selling sweets.

The most common menu color combination, however, is red and yellow. Both colors grab attention and provoke an appetite. We do not recommend this color combination for high-end restaurants.

Fine Dining

9 Get dessert off the main menu.

Having your desserts listed on the main menu may lose you an appetizer sale. To maximize sales, keep desserts on a separate menu handed to customers following the main course. You can also prevent the loss of appetizer sales by adding the desserts to the back page.

10 Here’s the deal with capital letters.

Capital letters are great for the title of menu items but leave them out of the descriptions. Adding capital letters to menu descriptions leads to customers scanning the menu and not reading any of those appetizing adjectives we added earlier. Keep the value up with lower case letters.

11 Don’t forget the gluten-free and vegetarians.

It’s increasingly common for people to eat gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan. This is why you should have the items on the menu labeled as such when they qualify and ensure there is at least one of each option. Not having an option not only leads to someone not ordering a meal, it could lead to an entire table leaving your restaurant. It also saves servers from a lot of time and questions.

Unsuccessful establishments undermine the power of the menu. The menu is the #1 marketing tool restaurants and bars possess because they subconsciously translate to a certain image and expectation in the customer’s mind. With these tips and an eye-catching menu cover, you can expect the orders to start pouring in. Contact us with questions and comments by clicking the Information button below. Cheers!

Restaurant Drinks

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