Expert tips for crafting the perfect restaurant menu

A menu is a restaurant’s key ingredient to success. Picture: Pexels/Roman Odintsov

A menu is a restaurant’s key ingredient to success. Picture: Pexels/Roman Odintsov

Published Dec 5, 2023


When a diner walks into a restaurant or looks it up online, one of the first things they want to know about is the food. What kind of cuisine do they serve? How much does a meal cost? Do they have a fixed menu or a rotating selection of seasonal dishes?

A menu provides answers to the questions and gives diners a deeper understanding of what to expect from a particular dining experience. Experts believe that a menu is key to an eatery’s success.

It should tempt people to spend their time and money there. With this in mind, we have put together four things that restaurant’s should consider when creating or updating their menus.

A menu is a restaurant’s key ingredient to success. Picture: Pexels/Roman Odintsov

Developing the menu’s concept

The first step a restaurant should take when creating a menu is to define their concept.

The eatery’s dining options could range from vague to well-formed, but they should jot down the idea to use as a reference as they decide on menu items and the menu’s overall layout.

Examples to consider are whether the restaurant is formal or casual and what kind of cuisine will be the focus, such as seafood or fast food.

Before creating the menu, restaurants should also consider if they will be offering a full menu, from appetisers to desserts, or concentrating on a specific area, such as sandwiches or pasta entrées.

Easy-to-read format

I was once at a restaurant that was going for a chic aesthetic but that meant the lighting was dim. This could have been a huge mistake as it would have made the menu challenging to read.

But the eatery was innovative, displaying its menus on screens which allowed customers to read them easily.

And while restaurants are not required to fully reinvent themselves, it is important to avoid hard-to-read fonts on a menu. They should also avoid overloading their menus with culinary jargon, which not everyone might understand.

Other things to avoid on a menu are overly long descriptions as customers, on average, spend just under two minutes reading them.

Restaurants should also keep their menu design simple and easy to read to allow their customers to make the most of their dining experience.

Your menu is a key ingredient in the success of your restaurant. Picture: Pexels/Roman Odintsov

Food photography

Good food photography is an excellent way of showing off how fantastic a dish looks, especially if it is an exotic or creative meal.

Restaurants that opt for a menu that displays images of the food should consider investing in a photographer who understands its brand.

Consider how to display prices

The prices set by restaurants and how they are displayed are important to keep in mind. Cents should be considered, for example, listing a burger for R160.50 instead of R161, subtly gives diners the sense that they are getting a god deal.

It could also give diners the impression that the food is focused on price rather than quality.

Restaurants that list prices in large font at the end of the menu item put the focus on the cost, which can be helpful if customers are looking for a good value.

However, listing prices in a small, faded font keeps the focus on the dish descriptions rather than their cost.