August 31, 2023
Devn Ratz

Restaurant Menu Design Guide: Get More Online Orders

In the current culinary moment, creating the ideal menu transcends the deliciousness of your dishes. It’s the most important selling tool in your restaurant.

Here you’ll find your comprehensive guide to restaurant menu design, formatting, and trends. Cover the wide and shifting range of topics related to menu design tactics and upselling strategies with our expert observations and original research. 

Learn to weave profitability with customer preferences, and see how you can combine your brand with an enticing value—like sustainability, responsibility, or local engagement.

Key Takeaway: Restaurant menu design is an art, science, and sophisticated sales operation best performed with the help of restaurant software and custom design.

How to Make a Menu in 5 Stages

For most players in the food service industry, making a menu is a sensitive art. Balancing customer preferences, profitability, and branding demands finesse.

1. Gather Data

Creating a restaurant menu begins with listing all the dishes proposed for sale, enabling informed decision-making to rely on data about which items are most strategic to sell. 

2. Divide Items

Then, categorize your menu. These divisions help you pick which mainstay items or seasonal food selections to improve, omit, or add. You’ll get this information from restaurant point-of-sale (POS) systems.

3. Decide Prices

After sorting and sifting menu items, consider your pricing. For multi-location food brands, look at food service KPIs like customer acquisition, restaurant retention, and food cost reduction. Review ingredients, labor costs, overhead expenses, and overall food costs to ensure profitability is more than a short percentage.

4. Describe Dishes

Describing dishes challenges even the greatest, largest restaurant chains. When writing a menu, use action verbs, story-driven descriptions, and customer-centric details. Intrigue customers by spotlighting special qualities, treasured ingredients, and flavor profiles. 

5. Design, Finally

Finally, it’s time to make some design choices. Online ordering tools enable almost-instant change, coloring, and coordination of your mobile menus. With Revolution Ordering, you can also use real sales data or actual customer survey feedback for more profitable recipe selection and positioning.

Menu Design Ideas for Any Restaurant

These cost-saving menus satisfy customer palates and watch over your bottom line. Explore them for cost reduction, and then bundle your culinary creations for savings. 

  1. Combo-Ready: Customers savor multiple dishes at a slashed rate on these restaurant menu designs that boost order volume.
  2. Seasonal Item: Your restaurant can thrive on the freshness of seasonal produce. These fit many farm-to-table restaurants.
  3. Limited Stock: Try to aim at a simple message: order these dishes first. This menu is highly suitable for small eateries and pop-ups.
  4. Staple Inventory: If your pantry leans on low-cost foods, keeping things consistent will help with repeat business.
  5. Family-Style: Offering larger dishes that are meant to be shared, this attractive design fits families and gatherings.
  6. Flat Fixed: Customers get a full meal at a predetermined price on this arrangement, bringing simplicity to the online ordering process.
  7. Value-Driven: Present high-quality options at great prices, and increase customer loyalty as well as sales volume.
  8. Off-Peak: Promoting reduced prices during specific times remains beneficial for boosting overall sales.
  9. Vegan/Vegetarian: Cater to the rising plant-based diet trend with clear vegan or vegetarian sections.
  10. Gluten-Free: Target gluten-intolerant diners with the right hospitality and consideration through this approach.
  11. All-Organic: Use ingredients free from additives to establish your restaurant as high-quality (and command premium prices).
  12. Low-Calorie: Offer dishes with controlled calories to attract the health-conscious and improve customer acquisition.
  13. Keto and Paleo: Prepare a list of high-order proteins with few carbohydrates. It will almost instantly broaden your customer base.
  14. “Whole” Food: Focus mostly on minimally processed options to suit the health and wellness niche.
  15. Sugar-Free: Attend to customers managing glucose intake with options that include all our diverse customer segments.
  16. High-Protein: Fit the fitness angle and align your brand with customers seeking food as clean energy.

Key Takeaway: Modern restaurant menu design employs evidence-based, data-driven strategies to build positive experiences, increase loyalty, and scale online orders. 

Menu Templates: Uses and Abuses

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

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 according to your customer. 

Menu Template Pros

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

Menu Template Cons

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

While many restaurants turn to the template menu, ambitious new enterprises are going custom to stand out.

The custom restaurant 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. 

Ultimately, a custom menu design caters differently to customers than other restaurants. Those enterprise food brands that succeed with a custom menu drive orders through sleek navigation and easy-to-operate engineering.

Menu Formatting Approaches

From their concept to final organization, menus speak volumes for the establishment at hand. As you create a sustainable, mobile-ready, or simply profit-optimized menu format, keep sensations in mind: 

Be conscious of eye movement as you review drafts of your restaurant menu designs to entertain the eye with a delicate combination of contrast and consistency. Then, ensure that the dishes you feature contain a diverse variety of nutritional profiles, market appeal, and dietary concerns, casting a wide net on earnings. 

Options for Customization

Off-premise dining is much more than a trend. Over the coming years, it's also expected to grow its multi-billion dollar industry by about 11 percent—translating to an enormous sum of potentially loyal customers.

As you customize your restaurant menu design experience based on restaurant CRM system, POS integration, and customer profile data—remember to keep things simple. Menu management, engineering, and optimization techniques often rely on the same data to stir new ideas into restaurant operations. 

For instance, you may find—as many restaurants do—that a simple a la carte boxed menu will help increase sales by adding flexibility to the experience of ordering. And, remember that you can experiment with unconventional and unique menu formats. 

Key Takeaway: Menu formatting influences the perception of your brand, the performance of your sales, and the maximum profitability of your restaurant. 

Restaurant Menu Design: Expanded

Make it easy for customers to imagine the mood and moment of receiving service or delivery

1. Categorize Offers

Initially structure and make a restaurant menu by using a category layout by trying these well-studied suggestions:

  • Split menus. A separate menu for special treats drives appetizer and dessert sales. In short, let customers ponder over which items they want from every list.
  • Divide drinks. A unique beverage or alcohol menu saves space. Feature non-alcoholic drink favorites on the main restaurant menu design.
  • Distinguish diets. Dedicate sections to vegans, vegetarians, and the gluten-free or carb-conscious. Help customers feel supported in dietary decisions.
  • Spotlight seasonal. Use boxes, borders, or center placement to draw eyes to seasonal dishes or specialty plates which are sure to stimulate customer satisfaction.

Remember: as you tirelessly list items, details, and descriptions, simplicity still matters. Don't overwhelm readers with more than two pages, if possible.

2. Refine Wording

Whether you’re making menus for movie theaters or sustainability, drafting restaurant menu descriptions remains a continual process. Making names unique, or charming, supports speedy understanding. Then, describe taste and texture. 

3. Distinguish Dishes

Showcase those plant-based items. Highlight the variety on offer. Restaurant menu designs with inclusivity assist restaurant promotion by catering to different market’s dietary concerns. 

Customers appreciate the help finding preferred choices. Add sections or other signs to help guests find their favorites and spot dishes satisfying their standards.

4. Be Friendly

Seemingly slight, even the shape of letters will definitely affect the success of your overall restaurant menu design. The slightest typeface change can help online ordering:

  • Scale item size. Make sure your dishes and descriptions loom over pricing. 
  • Use uppercase bold. Highlights for dish names give distinction and clarity.
  • Drop dollar signs. Money symbols inspire a negative impression: avoid them.
  • Make menus accessible. The young and mature prefer larger fonts.

5. Use Colors

Menu colors reflect your restaurant and reveal your brand's essence. Data tells us that colors steer your guests' appetites. 

Using bright colors, you can ignite hunger on an almost unconscious level. Keep your brand consistent while using proven strategies to sway orders. Even color choices must align with your goals.

6. Publish Cross-Platform

Done with your new menu? Sync your menu across delivery platforms and take-out services with ease. Make mobile-friendly restaurant menu designs too. 

Use cloud technologies for restaurants to get customers interacting with your business from phones or tablets. Ensure you have support for multiple platforms, apps, and third-party services to guarantee you reach every potential customer.

Custom Restaurant Menu Trends

When you run around the US virtually, a review of custom restaurant menu design focuses mostly on off-premise dining. Why? 

While there is a trend toward digital menu ordering optimization. For instance, we see more creative and flavorful chicken sandwiches than ever across enterprise restaurants

Sustainable Sells

Attracting new customers is a top priority as the ordering market gains by 11% each year. One way that restaurants deal with competition is by getting grounded and digging in locally. 

They choose and feature local, farm-fresh ingredients to minimize food waste and increase the chances of attracting loyal customers with enticing dishes that do more than taste delicious. 

Experimental Pricing

When setting prices on a menu, most restaurants rely on “cost-plus” pricing: the cost of producing each item shows a profit margin which is then added to the listed menu price. Still, cost-based pricing, value pricing, and competition pricing can still be worthwhile and competitive. 

  • Value-Added Pricing: What are customers really willing to pay for items of real value for their culture, morals, or beliefs about food?
  • Competition-Based Pricing: How does the market, our brand, and this cuisine determine a specific price point within the landscape?
  • Cost-Based Pricing: What do we need this menu item to cost based on the expense of cooking, serving, and delivering it?

Personalizing Orders

With the innovations of tech solutions in the restaurant industry, instant menu personalization and customization has become a significant selling ability. They also can reach customers more importantly through personal channels, especially when using text-to-order options.

Testing Descriptions

Descriptions stimulate (or stop) the item’s order. Generally, you should use menu descriptions to add color to your customer’s concept of your restaurant and brand. 

Research shows this is effective when menu descriptions influence many perceptions about your business:

  • Does the restaurant care about its ingredients?
  • What is the quality of the menu item described?
  • Is this a healthy item, a decadent dessert, or both?
  • How much satisfaction will this menu item bring?
  • Is this item worth the cost of ordering and delivery?

At every turn, you should see how customers will react to your menu. Use descriptions to educate, elucidate, and finally entice. They should also compliment the visual flavor of your menu with an appropriate choice of words, tone, and approach.

Leveraging Data

When you’ve dug into your data, you’ll see how pricing, meal portioning, color usage, and even images affect the sales numbers on holistic dashboards. 

Here’s a quick, expert tip if you haven’t started that process of food costing and menu analysis yet: presenting prices to customers alters their behavior, mood, and impression of your restaurant. Spelled-out prices actually perform better than numerical or symbolic pricing. 

In other words, keep your prices subtle and small, but your content bold. Sustainable menus may be different, since customers ignore such premium costs when the item is exceptional, good, and virtuous by all standards. 

Key Takeaway: Custom restaurant menus enhance the customer experience, increase loyalty program engagement, and increase sales through tailored offers.