August 24, 2023
Devn Ratz

Compare Menu Templates vs. Custom Design for Enterprise Restaurants

There is a debate brewing in the world of online ordering: Do you use menu templates or engage a custom menu design process?

Online menu templates, like those offered by many online ordering platforms, offer a cost-effective way for restaurants to include off-premise strategies. Though, the custom alternative gives more flexibility, customization, and promotional opportunities.

These menus each enable online ordering, pickup or curbside, and streamlined delivery. The difference, however, remains a matter of investment. How far will you go to design a menu which increases and entices online ordering?

The matter comes down to the user’s opinion. Your customer is the final word on whether your menu—whether a template or custom design. Do they think it meets the mark for attractiveness, transparency, and even values like restaurant sustainability?

Key Takeaway: All restaurant menus (printed or online, custom or menu template) stand to maximize profit and enhance customer experiences with careful design.

Read our free guidebook on making your restaurant sustainable through its custom design or menu template.

Menu Templates vs. Custom Design: Complete Pros and Cons

If you have ever improved on a menu description, design, or element, you know an effective restaurant menu design can improve profitability and sustainability.

These matter together because each creates an effect on the other. Enterprise restaurants who conserve inventory, resources, and energy often have a better margin per customer order.

But, which strategy do you think would be more effective? Does a familiar, easy, and template-based menu serve customers better than a custom, descriptive, branded format? Remembering the key concepts of menu design ideas and methods—let’s find out.

Review the benefits of menu templates against the custom design option. See the true costs of each avenue, and then get the final analysis on the debacle from your customer’s perspective.

Pros and Cons of the Menu Template

Many menu templates for online ordering and delivery prove to stimulate sales and satisfaction for customers. These template-based forms typically also make it easier to analyze customer data and big data for restaurants.

The familiar format also makes them attractive for the switch-and-swap menu management which allows on-the-fly changes based on inventory management and forecasting. (Though, today, either gets analyzed with speed using AI restaurant technologies.)

In general, the advantage of a menu template remains its easy familiarity. As you’ll later see, the easy similarity of template menus also proves to be its greatest weakness in the eyes of your customer. These template menus too often lack any form of originality or distinction for brands.

If you want to pursue a menu template for online ordering, demo Revolution Ordering to see how we handle the custom vs. template. (Hint: We believe in the best of both!)

Major Benefits

  • Easy to add items and make changes
  • May improve efficiency and customer experience
  • Streamlines the ordering process with familiarity

Biggest Drawbacks

  • Lacks flexibility or customization elements
  • Neglects custom branding and distinction from competitors
  • May not impress customers who prefer website experiences

Advantages and Disadvantages of Custom Menu Designs

Many pop-up restaurants, food trucks, and ghost kitchens turn to the template menu for online ordering. Other, ambitious enterprises are going custom to stand out.

The custom menu design expands off-premise sales through several effects. For the most part, it allows restaurants to maximize the off-premise opportunity they have by creating a custom experience. This, in turn, builds up loyalty programs on both sides of the on-premise and off-premise equation.

Further, a custom menu design caters differently to customers than other restaurants. Frequently, this means changing consumption trends for existing and future customers.

Those enterprise food brands that succeed with a custom menu drive orders through sleek navigation and easy-to-operate engineering. But, they also leverage video, images, and animations that stimulate appetites and enhance appeal.

Major Benefits

  • Flexibility and freedom to brand as needed
  • Increases distinction and loyalty to a coherent brand
  • Continuous improved and refined based on customer order data

Biggest Drawbacks

  • Might be much more costly as an investment than template menus
  • Demands expertise and innovation—or help from restaurant software partners
  • Takes slightly more work to update and refine customized menu items 

The Cost-Benefit of Customization

Using menu templates is more cost-effective. That’s almost the end of the story, except custom menu designs for online orderings introduce a few complications in the long view.

For instance, a custom menu can offer an even better ordering experience for increased sales and an improved restaurant experience. It may also avoid the rising fees so often associated with the template-based, third-party menu and delivery service.

Instead, if restaurants find they want to customize and impress customers more than the average business, they turn to POS-integrated ordering solutions. This can bring together the best of the template and custom design.

Without a software partner in online ordering integration, large, multi-location restaurants may struggle to find the balance between investment, brand consistency, and profits.

Mind this especially as ordering app fees continue to climb. (Read our review of the most popular, template-using partners like Clover, Square, and Toast online ordering.)

Final Word: The User Experience

When you compare the experience of ordering through a template or ordering through a custom design experience, there’s quite a lot to consider.

First, for the flavor of efficiency, the template menu tastes better to most restaurant owners. You may be eager to join the multi-billion dollar ordering market before missing the opportunity to compete. The template menu is a solid decision for ease of updating for managers and ease of ordering for customers.

However, if your concern with user experience is the impression your brand makes on customers, then the custom design route serves better results. You’ll accept orders, organize delivery, sell restaurant gift cards just the same as those who rely on templates.

The difference is the positive impact you make on the mind of the user, as they order today and contemplate their future orders. Some research also indicates that customers may prefer a custom website experience to the template, unowned version.

Finally though, some options are simply not available in templates. This is a pain when it comes to following best practices for making a menu. For instance, most apps won’t allow you to replace pictures with illustrations or to drop your items’ dollar signs. (Both of these seem to offend users and hurt order volumes.)

Get your menu template or custom menu to work for you by knowing the hallmarks of smart, sales-driven design.

Frequently Asked Questions About Menu Templates

Learn from the example of other enterprise restaurants who seek to make the most of their menu.

Whether you want reduced food waste, an easy experience for all, or an unforgettable brand moment, you'll find help here.

How do I create a menu layout?

Your first task is to write out each menu item based on your analysis of food costs and restaurant data intelligence.

Once you then categorize and group these dishes, you’re ready to write mouth-watering descriptions and set specific prices. Finally, you’ll embellish the menu with custom color schemes and original imagery.

What is the best app to create a menu?

Menu designs are as easily drafted in Microsoft Word as they are in tools like Canva and the like. But, the truth is that the best apps to create a menu leverage restaurant POS platform data.

They use order histories, volumes, trends, and forecasting to strategize menu item design and placement. Tools like Revolution Ordering and our team of dedicated developers can help you bring these insights to practical life.

What are the four kinds of menus?

There are many more than four types of menu formats in the massive world of the food, beverage, and hospitality industry. However, some of the most common are:

  • daily menus (du jour), 
  • per-item menus (or “à la carte”), 
  • cyclical menus (with seasonal change), and 
  • static or fixed menus (the staple profit-machine of your restaurant). 

To learn more about the importance of menu design, you might like our consideration of the sustainable menu for restaurants. This shows the benefit of taking a striking, custom approach to presenting more valuable items for order.

Discover the ebooks, tools, guides, and more that can propel your custom or templated menu to new heights.