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15 Dos and Don’ts for Profitable Menu Design

Menus that generate the most profit require time and attention to detail. The overall design needs to reflect the personality and feeling of the restaurant because menus are a key ambassador for your establishment. As a general format, most menus are laid out in a way that follows the natural dining experience – with appetizers first, entrees, and then desserts. And before you dig in, make sure you examine the prices, menus, and websites, of your competition to help determine where and how you can compete.

Menu Dos 1, 2, 3

1. Pay attention to placement of profitable items

  • 1-Page Menu
    On a one page menu the point right above the center is the first place most people look.
  • 2-Page Menu
    On a two-page menu the customer’s eye will first look above center on the right – a great place to put a profitable item.
  • 3-Page Menu
    On three-panel (page) menus, people most often look at the center panel first, and then move counter clockwise.
  • 6-Page Menu

2. Call out special items with asterisks, logos, or boxes (rough rule use 10-15% of menu space for boxing items)
3. Personalize with special names
4. Be colorful
5. Use awesome photographs
6. Upsell by giving detailed descriptions
7. Downsell by using less copy
8. Announce recipe awards
9. Use favorable quotes
10. Mention well known brand name products that mean quality

Menu Don’ts

11. Don’t make the print too small – no one likes to strain to read their choices.
12. Don’t make the menu so big that it is unwieldy to hold
13. Don’t give diners a menu that is stained and worn and clearly been around too long.
14. Don’t use dollar signs – list prices as just a number, and put it after the item description so customers shop items, not prices
15. Don’t ever use unappetizing photos which are worse than no photos at all

Designing menus to enhance your profits is a key component to overall business success. There is a lot of great information out there to help give you the best, most profitable menu. Here are some additional resources:

Next Day Flyers’ Blog:

MCC Libraries

  • Food Adjectives – Created especially for the FSA 107 Menu Planning course, this web page provides examples of menu phrases and a list of descriptive menu terms.
  • The Art of the Menu – An article on menu design published in Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper.
  • Creatively Named Menu Items Sell Better – An article on descriptive menu labeling from the News Bureau at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • Designing Profitable Menus – This article from the Restaurant Report website provides guidelines for designing cost efficient menus.
  • Designing Menus That Sell – An article from the National Restaurant Association which provides tips for designing menus to promote profitable items.
  • Menu Design: Menu Psychology – Tips on designing menus from the Food Services of America website.
  • Menu Development and Analysis – An article on the menu development process posted on the Hotel Online website.
  • Maximize Menu Merchandising Power – Tips on how to create a menu that effectively markets your restaurant.

Article Resources

  1. Tips for Designing a Profitable Menu
  2. 10 Steps to a More Profitable Menu
  3. How to Create Beverage Menus that Increase Profit
  4. MCC Libraries

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