December 12, 2022
Lauren Platero

How to Make a Restaurant Menu: 14 Steps To Creating a Menu

A business owner can’t possibly open a restaurant business without a finalized restaurant menu! That’s why learning how to make a menu is so crucial as soon as you secure a brick and mortar restaurant. In this blog post, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about bringing menu design ideas to life. From selecting a cuisine to determining the markup vs margin, we’ve got you covered!

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How to Make a Restaurant Menu In 14 Simple Steps

Now that your plans to open an eatery are in motion, it’s time to make a restaurant menu! While it’s a time-consuming process that requires a lot of thought and certainty, the steps to complete a food and drink selection is quite simple. So, without further ado, see below to learn more about creating a restaurant menu in fourteen easy steps.

1. Create a Concept for the Restaurant

A theme or vision for a restaurant is essential for the menu. From design elements to the origin of the cuisine, a thoughtful concept will serve as the foundation for all branding efforts.

2. Determine a Cuisine That You Will Serve

Does your restaurant’s theme and name center around a nationality? If not, would you like your menu to offer a taste of a niche cuisine category? For instance, will the menu consist only of Italian or Latin fare? Or, will it consist of American classics and comfort food favorites? Though it might seem obvious, because it is, it’s important to feel confident in your answers to these questions before jumping into recipes and the design.

3. Choose the Amount of Restaurant Menu Sections

This step will probably be the simplest of them all. Determining the categories on your menu is a must before you jump into selecting dishes. If you skip ahead, it’ll only lead to confusion and disorganization. Typically, traditional menu sections include: an appetizer list, entree food, side dishes, dessert, drinks, and a kid’s menu. When you view the menu online, it’s also common to find a catering menu, too.

4. Determine If Your Restaurant Will Cater to Allergies

Whether your restaurant can cater to food allergies must be a decision you make in the early stages of opening a restaurant. But why not later? Well, the best way to protect customers from having allergic reactions is to have a separate kitchen where you can make dishes free of the top allergens. If you have a lease or ownership of a facility that doesn’t allow you to avoid cross contamination with certainty, there isn't much you can promise. Just make it clear that while some dishes might not contain a certain ingredient, it may still have traces of it.

5. Decide Which DIetary Restrictions You’ll Cater To

Will you offer any vegan or vegetarian dishes at your restaurant? How about dishes that are free of gluten or dairy? Consider just how inclusive you wish for your menu to be. Then, add at least a few items that will make your eatery inclusive for all.

6. List a Minimum of Three Dishes Under Each Category

Ensure that you have a minimum of three dishes underneath each section. Granting customers with a few options will give them a variety. Plus, you won't need to hold onto an enormous amount of ingredients in back of house storage. In other words, if maintaining a sustainable menu is a concern of yours, just a few choices in each section should be sufficient.

7. Write a Brief Description of Each Dish Underneath the Title

Draft a brief snippet under each dish title to inform future customers about what they’ll be eating during that course. Simply jot down the main protein source, the way the chef will cook it, and any seasonings. If the dish comes with a side or two, mention which one(s).

8. Draft Recipes for Each of Your Dishes

Perhaps the most important part of the restaurant menu design process, this is the step that’ll bring your business to life. Once you have all the dishes that you’re going to serve on paper, employ your sous chef to come up with complete recipes. Depending on their level of expertise, this might take a bit of trial and error. But once you get each recipe perfect, keep them on file for when you begin offering them to customers.

9. Calculate the Food Cost Percentage for Each Dish

Consider the cost of each ingredient and determine how much of a markup you will set for each dish. Typically, restaurants should strive to reach a food cost percentage of 30 to 35 percent. This figure represents the idea that for every $100 worth of food that sells, the eatery should incur an expense between $30 and $35 on ingredients. Keep in mind that the drink cost percentage is slightly lower, ranging from 20 to 25 percent.

10. Analyze Income Data for Your Local Market

Review local income data to determine the kinds of prices that will make sense for your restaurant. For instance, a lavishly expensive restaurant likely won’t survive in a low-income area. Meanwhile, an eatery with fast food prices may not compete with the upscale restaurant brands in a more ritzy neighborhood. It’s all about locating your ideal customer profile and understanding how they most likely spend their money. Whether your restaurant will thrive in their geographic area will depend on your prices.

11. Implement a Premium Pricing Strategy

The concept of premium pricing is a psychological marketing strategy that enhances the perception of a restaurant due to slight higher prices. You heard that right–by pricing menu items slightly higher than those of competitors, consumers may perceive them to be of higher quality. Check out competing restaurants in your area and review prices. Then, price your dishes 15-20 percent higher. Always remember not to go overboard, as this can have adverse effects on sales.

12. Create the Restaurant Menu Design

This part is where you’ll have to put your design skills to good use. If this kind of work isn’t part of your expertise, no worries! Simply hire a marketer or graphic designer to create an aesthetically pleasing food menu design. Finalizing everything from the menu format to the number of pages will be part of this step. It’s crucial that you also have the restaurant’s theme and branding complete by this point. This is because the menu design will also include elements like fonts and the restaurant’s color scheme. If there’s a delay, or you’re striving to keep it simple across the board, a classy black and white theme is always a safe option.

13. Get Prints Made of the Final Menu Draft

Once you add all your dishes to a menu template that suits your vision, it’s time to get professional prints made. These will be the copies that your hosts will hand to paying customers. So, it’s something worth investing a little extra money in.

14. Create a Custom QR Code for Digital Browsing

QR codes and digital menu ordering go hand in hand. Once you have a set menu in place, onboard a solution like SproutQR to create a sleek and professional code. The ability to log into an account and make updates as needed also establishes streamlined menu management practices.

Frequently Asked Questions About a Restaurant Menu

Learning how to make a restaurant menu requires a great deal of time and attention to detail. Now that you’re equipped with all the information to succeed, it’s time for a recap. Read on to discover a brief overview of the topic in the five-part FAQ section below!

What Are the Main Categories of a Restaurant Menu?

The main categories of a restaurant menu are:

  • Appetizers
  • Soups and salads
  • Main courses
  • Side dishes
  • Desserts
  • Kid’s menu
  • Soft drinks
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Catering menu

How Many Dishes Should Be On a Restaurant Menu?

There should be a minimum of three dishes under each menu category. This amount of dishes will give every customer a variety without raising the costs for the owners on excessive amounts of ingredients. Plus, it won't be too overwhelming for the customers. As a result, they'll quickly choose dishes, speeding up the table turnover rate.

Who Is Responsible for Creating a Restaurant Menu?

More often than not, the executive chef is the one who creates the restaurant menu, especially in upscale eateries. In some cases, the chef will collaborate with the owner. After all, the chef’s not always the one investing in the ingredients. But what about business models like franchises? For these entities, upper-level executives design the menus to ensure that all the units are uniform.

Is It Worth Having a QR Code for a Restaurant Menu?

Yes, QR codes are ideal for your more casual restaurants. They allow customers to view the menu on their smartphone, which is much more sanitary for the guests and staff alike. Plus, QR code menus are extremely easy to update. So if there’s ever a time when you have to make a last-minute menu change, customers will be able to view available items in real time.

Is Restaurant Menu Engineering an Important Practice?

Yes, restaurant menu engineering is a very important practice when running an eatery. For one, it gives business owners the opportunity to save money. When they take a step back and determine what isn’t selling, they can reduce the amount of ingredients they have to purchase regularly. Then, they can prioritize the dishes that do turn a profit. As a result, kitchen operations will be much simpler and the restaurant will be that much more profitable.

Next Steps…

And there you have it–everything you need to know about how to make a restaurant menu. Now, let’s get ready to make your menu available on all the food delivery apps! Learn more about Connect, and if it checks all the boxes regarding the tools you’re in need of, schedule a demo with us! We’ll walk you through the product and get you started on streamlining order management sooner than later.