A restaurant menu is a powerful sales tool that can significantly impact a restaurant’s profitability. Whether we’re referring to a printed menu or a menu online, it influences customers’ desire to buy food in your restaurant.
To help your restaurant design a practical menu, we have prepared this guide on making a menu.
Below we listed steps to make a menu to improve your restaurant’s financial results.
The basics of creating a restaurant menu
Remember to create both a printed menu and an online menu
A restaurant menu is either a printed or a digital menu and includes a list of dishes and drinks offered to customers.
Decide what types of restaurant menu you need:
- Main menu: This is the primary menu that lists all the food and beverage options available at a restaurant. It typically includes appetizers, entrees, side dishes, and desserts.
- Kids menu: This menu is specifically designed for children and typically includes smaller portions and simpler dishes that are more kid-friendly.
- Wine menu: This menu features a selection of wines available at the restaurant, organized by type, region, or vintage.
- Drinks menu: This menu lists all of the non-alcoholic beverages available at the restaurant, including soft drinks, juices, and specialty drinks.
- Lunch menu: A lunch menu is offered by restaurants during midday mealtime. It typically includes lighter and quicker dishes than a dinner menu and may be more affordable.
- Brunch menu: This menu is typically offered on weekends and includes a mix of breakfast and lunch items.
- Vegetarian menu: This menu is designed for customers who prefer vegetarian or vegan options and includes dishes that do not contain meat or animal products.
- Gluten-free menu: This menu is designed for customers with gluten intolerance or celiac disease and includes dishes that do not contain gluten.
We described all types of menu cards in our article on 25 Types of Menu in Restaurant.
Remember to include the following:
- Names of dishes
- Descriptions of dishes
- Menu items prices
- List of ingredients used to prepare a dish
- Information on allergens
Creating restaurant menu designs is a process of arranging dishes in a manner that encourages customers to order. According to Medium report, including photos of menu items can increase sales by up to 30%. However, ensuring the photos are high-quality and accurately represent the dish is important.
Step 1. Prepare a list of all menu items
A starting point in creating a restaurant menu is preparing a list of menu items you plan to offer. Then, you can build a restaurant menu in Excel, Google Sheets, or even use a piece of paper to list all menu items.
Step 2. Organize menu items into categories
The second step is dividing your menu into categories. These could be, for example, breakfast, starters, soups, main dishes, drinks, etc. Once you do this, think of which menu items you want to sell most, which main dish should be at the top of the list, and why.
A recognizable method of grouping your menu items into 4 categories based on their profitability and popularity is a part of the menu engineering process. These categories include “plow horses”, “stars”, “dogs”, and “puzzles”, which represent your menu items.
The number of categories to include in an online menu may vary depending on the restaurant’s offerings and needs.
- According to a study by SinglePlatform, restaurants with 3 to 4 menu categories tend to have the highest engagement and order frequency.
- A study by Toast suggests that 5 to 7 menu categories offer a good balance between variety and simplicity.
Important note: having too many categories can overwhelm customers while having too few can make the menu seem limited. Therefore, finding the right balance is important to provide a positive customer experience.
Step 3. Determine menu item pricing
Once you organize your menu items into categories, it’s time to think about their pricing. For example, suppose you are creating a menu from scratch and starting a restaurant business. In that case, you must determine the optimal pricing strategy for your restaurant menu to maximize profits while satisfying your customers.
- Research your market: Get to know your competition by researching their pricing strategies and analyzing factors such as location, menu offerings, and customer demographics. This will help you determine what your customers are willing to pay.
- Calculate your costs: Calculate the cost of ingredients, labor, and overhead expenses to determine your food cost percentage. This will help you set prices that are both attractive to customers and profitable for your restaurant.
- Use pricing strategies: Consider pricing strategies such as anchoring and odd pricing to influence customer perceptions of value. For example, pricing a premium item higher than others can make other items seem more reasonably priced.
- Test and adjust: check your menu and pricing strategy with a focus group or soft opening. Analyze sales data and customer feedback to make informed decisions about pricing and menu items. Regularly review and adjust your menu prices to reflect ingredient costs, customer demand, and profitability changes.
- Stay competitive: Stay up-to-date with market trends and regularly review your menu prices to ensure they remain competitive. Use sales data to identify high-performing and low-performing items and adjust prices accordingly.
Alternatively, analyze your sales reports if you are running a restaurant and want to increase menu prices. A good practice referring to increasing menu prices is to let customers know what you have done thanks to this rise. For example, you can put a note, “Thanks to the price increase, we can rely on fresh ingredients when cooking for you, despite the high price increase due to inflation. We care about your health. Freshness and quality are the most important for us”.
In the opinion of the National Restaurant Association, an ideal menu should have around 7 items per category, with a maximum of 30-40 menu items in total. This allows customers to consider a manageable number of choices while still providing diverse dishes.
Step 4. Work on menu item descriptions
The next step is to describe your dishes. Talk to your chef about ingredients used for preparation, and consider why you offer these dishes in your restaurant. Below we listed a few tips on how to write menu descriptions.
Tip 1. Use expressive language, but don’t exaggerate
Use adjectives and expressive language to vividly portray the dish and its distinctive flavors and ingredients. Use adjectives such as “succulent” or “crisp” to describe your dishes in depth.
Tip 2. Keep it concise
While being descriptive is crucial, ensure your descriptions are short and easy to read. In addition, include essential information, such as ingredients or the spiciness level.
Tip 3. Emphasize significant ingredients
Highlight the essential ingredients in each dish to spark customers’ curiosity and persuade them to order.
Tip 4. Consider presentation
Reflect on how the dish will be presented and use descriptive language to accentuate its visual appeal. Include descriptions of the dish’s presentation and what goes into preparing it.
Tip 5. Tell a story
Make use of menu descriptions to share a story about the dish, its origin, or how it’s prepared. This can establish a connection with customers and make the dish more enticing.
Tip 6. Keep dietary restrictions in mind
Mention any dietary restrictions or allergies related to the dish, such as “gluten-free” or “vegan.”
Tip 7. Avoid cliché
Refrain from using worn-out phrases like “mouthwatering” or “full of flavor.” Instead, use unique and creative language that genuinely portrays the dish.
- Stimulate customers to explore new menu items
- Provide information to customers with dietary restrictions
- Assists customers in discovering a dish that caters to their taste preferences
- Makes global cuisine easier to understand and appreciate
- Increases sales and profitability
Step 5. Choose menu colors
Picking the right colors for your restaurant menu can reveal much about your brand, so making thoughtful selections is vital. In general, the colors of your restaurant menu should be consistent with your brand and interior design. Moreover, the colors you choose can influence your guests’ hunger levels.
The colors of your menu can affect customers’ perception of a restaurant and their willingness to order certain dishes. In addition, different colors can evoke different emotional responses, affecting how customers perceive food and the overall dining experience.
- Red: Often associated with food, red can stimulate appetite. Plus, it can make it easier for customers to recognize and remember the restaurant, leading to repeat business.
- Yellow: Yellow, like red, is often associated with food and can stimulate appetite. The color is found in many fruits and vegetables, such as lemons, bananas, and corn, often associated with freshness.
- Green: Green is often associated with freshness, health, and nature, and can be used to emphasize the use of fresh, healthy ingredients in a restaurant’s dishes. This can be particularly effective for restaurants that specialize in vegetarian or plant-based cuisine.
- Blue: Often associated with calmness, serenity and relaxation, blue can be used to create a relaxed atmosphere in a restaurant. This can be particularly effective for upscale restaurants that want to create a more relaxed vibe.
- Orange: Like red, orange is often associated with food and can stimulate appetite. The color orange is found in many fruits and vegetables, such as oranges, carrots, and squashes, often associated with nutrition and vitality.
- Brown: Often associated with warmth and comfort, brown can be used to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere in a restaurant. This can be particularly effective in restaurants that serve home cooking or traditional fare.
- Black: Often associated with sophistication, elegance and luxury, black can be used to create a sophisticated atmosphere in a restaurant. This can be especially effective for upscale restaurants that want to create a sense of exclusivity.
Step 6. Focus on the restaurant menu design
Having created your menu in Google Sheets or Excel and choosing colors, the next step is designing it. Again, you can use tools available on the market, such as a restaurant menu maker, or hire a professional designer.
If you are creating an online version of your menu, you can use ready-to-use, professionally designed restaurant templates for menus. In addition, you can customize the free menu templates to create a beautifully designed menu that’ll help draw attention to your business and increase the number of orders from your restaurant.
While designing your menu, don’t forget about the basic rules like
- Using the Golden Triangle rule,
- Keeping your menu short
- Removing currency symbols or using round numbers instead of .99
- Avoiding displaying a price column on the menu
- Reducing the number of menu pages
We prepared a menu engineering guide where you can read more about these rules.
Step 7. Remember about restaurant menu photos
In the case of a printed restaurant menu, you need to keep the balance. In general, menus with ample white space can be more visually appealing, and overloading them with your own photos or icons can divert customers’ attention from the menu’s main content.
If you want to add food photos to your printed menu, remember about the quality. It’s better not to add menu photos than blurry pictures, which may discourage your customers from ordering. Moreover, incorporate pictures of your most popular or high-value items to attract customer’s attention and entice them to order those dishes.
Remember to add your high-quality pictures to your restaurant’s online menu. In the UpMenu free online menu maker, you can do this quickly by clicking the “Add image” button and uploading the image from your source.
We created a list of food photography tips to help make your restaurant’s dishes more tempting and attractive to your customers.
Alternatively, you can hire a professional photographer, but you must face additional costs in this case.
Step 8. Choose fonts, spacing, and layout for the menu
This is the next step of creating a menu for a restaurant. You need to decide on fonts, spacing, and general menu layout. You can do it independently using menu creators like:
- Free Restaurant Menu Maker – Create a Menu | Canva
- Free Menu Maker with Online Templates | Adobe Express
- or hire a professional to help you with that.
- Use easy-to-read fonts: Use clear, legible fonts that are easy for customers to read. Sans-serif fonts like Arial, Helvetica, and Verdana are popular choices for good menu design (source: The Balance Small Business, 2021).
- Limit the number of fonts: Limit the number of fonts used on the menu to maintain a clean and organized appearance. Use no more than two fonts to avoid overwhelming customers (source: Toast, 2021).
- Match the font to the restaurant’s brand: Choose a font that matches the restaurant’s brand and personality. For example, a classic, elegant restaurant may opt for a serif font, while a modern, trendy restaurant may choose a sans-serif font (source: Canva, 2021).
- Consider the menu item descriptions: Choose a font size and style that suits the length of the menu item descriptions. If the descriptions are short, a smaller font size may be appropriate, while longer descriptions may require a larger font size (source: OpenTable, 2021).
- Use font variations for emphasis: Use bold, italics, and different font sizes to emphasize important items on the menu, such as specials or signature dishes (source: FSR Magazine, 2019).
It’s important to remember that updating your menu regularly should be a simple and straightforward process. Updating your restaurant menu can be a great way to keep things fresh and exciting for your customers.
Step 9. Decide on the menu layout
Following the previous steps leads to a final decision. You have a few custom menu design projects and must decide which one to choose. Selecting a menu style that reflects your business’s concept and resonates with your customers is crucial. Ensuring the restaurant menu style matches your business is vital to creating a cohesive and compelling brand identity.
- Minimalist: this restaurant menu design emphasizes simplicity, clarity, and functionality rather than elaborate or decorative design elements. The minimalist menu design aims to create a clean and uncluttered look that is easy to read and navigate.
- Vintage: vintage menu designs are ideal for creating a sense of authenticity and timelessness, often by incorporating design elements that hark back to a specific era or style.
- Modern: a modern restaurant menu features clean lines, bold typography, and an emphasis on minimalism and simplicity. Modern menu design aims to create a sleek, modern look and feel that is easy to read and navigate.
- Nostalgic: the nostalgic menu design creates a sense of warmth and welcoming atmosphere that makes customers feel comfortable and happy.
- Artistic: an artistic restaurant menu emphasizes creativity, uniqueness, and visual appeal. The goal of menu art design is to create a memorable and engaging dining experience that reflects the creativity and aesthetic vision of the restaurant.
- Classic: this menu design emphasizes elegance, sophistication, and tradition, which gives the menu a timeless look that reflects the restaurant’s commitment to quality and excellence.
Step 10. Print your restaurant menu
Once you make a decision on the final menu layout, you are ready to print your restaurant menu. Remember it’s essential to determine the size of the menu beforehand, as well as paper quality, making sure it’s durable and high-quality, with a weight that is appropriate for your menu’s size and design.
When choosing the size, take into account:
- Font size
- the number of menu items
- the layout
- Standard size: 8.5″ x 11″. This is the most commonly used menu size in most restaurants that have a dine-in option and is easy to read, making it ideal for menus with a wide variety of items.
- Compact size: 5.5″ x 8.5″. This size is commonly used in cafes, diners, and casual dining establishments, as it offers a more cost-effective and compact option for simpler menus.
- Large size: 11″ x 17″. This size is often used in upscale restaurants or for “daily specials” inserts to larger menus. It provides more space for creative designs and larger font sizes.
- International size: A4. This standard size is used in many countries outside the US, measuring 8.27″ x 11.69″. This size is commonly used in Europe, Asia, and Australia.
A custom size menu offers different benefits and are chosen depending on a restaurant’s specific needs and design preferences.
Step 11. Create your online restaurant menu
As we already mentioned before, you can use menu templates to add your online restaurant menu with the help of a free menu maker – all with just a few clicks.
Tips on how to make an online version of your menu for your restaurant
1. You start with creating menu categories and adding menu items from your list. Enter each item on your menu, along with its name, description, and price.
2. Remember that you can add the same menu item descriptions and photos as you used for your printed menu. Bear in mind that you’ll need high-quality photos of your dishes. Take clear, well-lit photos of each item on your menu.
3. Don’t forget about the option to add modifiers. Menu item modifiers are a useful feature of the Menu Management Module, which allows restaurants to offer additional ingredients, replacement options, or paid extras to their menu items. With this feature, restaurants can offer customization options and charge different prices depending on the size of the menu item.
4. Use upselling recommendations to increase sales. By setting up a popup window at the end of the buying process, customers can be encouraged to add extra products to their cart, thereby boosting overall sales.
5. Create a QR code menu for your restaurant. Doing so makes menu viewing easy for clients, plus, they’ll be able to download a digital version of your menu and have it at hand at all times.
6. Don’t forget about tableside ordering. This option allows clients to order their meals right from the table, which makes it convenient for both you and your customers.
7. If you don’t have a website, you can create your own using UpMenu’s website templates, which will help you to create your own website in no time.
- To create an ideal menu, it’s recommended to limit the number of items to around 7 per category, with a total maximum of 30-40 menu items.
- Categorize your menu items in accordance with menu engineering rules
- Write attractive menu descriptions
- Upload photos to attract potential customers
- Ask a friend or employee to read your ready menu to avoid typos before printing your restaurant menu
- Use ready-made restaurant menu templates in an online menu creator to design your restaurant’s menu online.
- Don’t forget about creating a QR code menu
- Offer tableside ordering in your restaurant
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How do you make a menu step by step?
Creating a menu can be creative, but it also requires careful consideration of the restaurant’s offerings and audience. To create a menu:
- Define your concept: Before creating your menu, determine what cuisine and catering style you want your restaurant to offer. This will help you narrow down your options and create a cohesive menu.
- Choose Dishes: Consider which dishes best reflect your restaurant’s style and concept, and which ingredients are seasonal and readily available. Start by listing all the dishes you want to include on your menu.
- Compose your menu: Decide how you want to compose your menu, for example by dishes (starters, main courses, desserts), type of cuisine (Italian, Mexican, Chinese) or dietary restrictions (vegetarian, gluten-free).
- Write Descriptions: For each dish, write descriptions that give your customers an idea of
what to expect in terms of taste, ingredients, and preparation methods. Be sure to highlight unique ingredients or cooking techniques.
- Fixed Prices: Set prices for each dish based on factors such as cost of ingredients, preparation time, and market demand.
- Create a layout: Design custom menus with a menu layout that is visually appealing and easy to navigate.Use images and graphics to make your menu more eye-catching and engaging.
- Test your menu: Before you print and distribute your menu, test it with a small group of customers to get feedback on the layout, descriptions, and pricing.
- Update your menu regularly: Update your menu regularly to accommodate changes in ingredients, seasonal specials, and customer demand.
What are the 3 parts of a menu?
The three parts of the menu are:
- Menu Header: The menu header typically includes the restaurant name, logo, and other branding elements. It can also include a tagline, address, phone number, and website.
- Menu Content: The actual dishes and drinks are listed in the menu content. This section can be organized by class size, type of cuisine, or dietary restrictions, and includes descriptions and prices for each item. Some menus may also include information about the ingredients, preparation methods, and cooking techniques used for each dish.
- Menu Footer: The menu footer often includes additional information about the restaurant, such as hours of operation, payment options, dress code, and special events or promotions. It may also contain disclaimers, copyright notices, or other important information.
How do I create a menu template?
However, your best option is using UpMenu’s restaurant website templates, which allow you to easily create a well-designed menu in just a few minutes – without any design skills required.
- Specify size and alignment: Specify the size and alignment of your menu, e.g. For example, the standard Letter size (8.5 x 11 inches) or the Square size. This will help you create a template that suits your needs.
- Choose a layout: Choose the layout that best suits the style and cuisine of your restaurant. You can choose from ready-made templates or create your own layout.
- Add Branding: Add your restaurant’s logo, name, and other branding to the menu header. This will help reinforce your restaurant’s branding and make it easily recognizable to customers.
- Organize your menu: Break down menu items into categories like appetizers, entrees, and desserts, and make sure you add clear and concise descriptions for each item.
- Choose Fonts and Color scheme: Choose fonts and colors that match your restaurant’s branding and style. Make sure the text is legible and easy to read.
- Add Photos: Add high-quality photos of your dishes to make your menu more visually appealing. Make sure the images are consistent in size and style.
- Review and Edit: Review your menu to ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors. Edit the descriptions and prices as needed to make them more efficient and accurate.