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Menu Descriptions: How To Write a Menu (With Examples)


Creating menu descriptions is a crucial component in the success of any restaurant business. Thoughtfully written restaurant menu descriptions have the potential to not only attract customers but also effectively convey the taste and appearance of a dish, ultimately leading to increased sales. 

In this article, we will show you how to write a menu, and we will provide you with examples. So let’s dive into it! 

What is menu writing?

According to the National Restaurant Association, menu writing is a process of writing menu descriptions of food items that are appetizing, informative, and accurate. Menu writing directly influences restaurant sales and is part of a restaurant marketing plan

However, not all restaurant owners go in depth when it comes to carefully designing their menu descriptions, which can negatively impact profits and the overall growth of the business.

What is the importance of menu descriptions?

In today’s competitive restaurant industry, businesses must create informative, engaging, and descriptive menu descriptions in order to stand out from their competitors. Additionally, keeping menu descriptions short has a great influence on customers’ buying decisions as well. The National Restaurant Association conducted a survey which showed that 87% of diners say that menu descriptions are a crucial factor in deciding what to order.

Here are the following factors that influence customer buying decisions:
  • A dish is made with organic ingredients to show you care about health and the environment.
  • Ingredients are from local farms to show you support local farmers.
  • The use of proper names and authentic ingredients of the geographic origin of dishes to give customers a more authentic experience.
  • Add menu items that show your culture to make customers feel like they are in a unique place.
  • Tell stories about your dishes, the cooking method, or the geographical origin of your cuisine to make each dish unique.
  • Use descriptive and exciting words to make the food sound appetizing and to make your customers crave it.

How to write a powerful menu description?

Below is a list of 13 menu writing tips that will help you to create amazing descriptions to match the visual design of your menu. If you need help designing your menu, check out our guide on how to make a restaurant menu.

1. Highlight the origin of your ingredients 

When you begin to write menu descriptions, include information about the origin of each meal or the location of the ingredients to suggest quality and freshness. Thanks to this simple technique, you appeal to customers who value locally sourced and sustainable products. In addition, you can consult your suppliers for detailed information about the ingredients you buy from them. 

Are customers willing to pay more for a dish prepared from local ingredients?

Yes, most customers will pay more for a dish if it is prepared from local ingredients or produced sustainably, which is a great way to increase profits. Here are some of the numbers you can expect to see:

  • According to a survey by Nielsen, 46% of consumers are willing to pay more for products and services that are locally sourced.
  • A survey by the National Restaurant Association found that 60% of consumers are willing to pay more for food produced sustainably or organically, which often includes local sourcing.
  • According to Riviera Produce, customers are more likely to return to your restaurant when your menu is in tune with nature, shifting just the way seasons do.

On the other hand, be careful when using unfamiliar ingredients in your menu, as it may scare your customers. If you need to use untypical ingredients, provide a brief description to avoid frightening customers who may not be familiar with the ingredient.

An example of menu descriptions of food

2. Label your menu items

You can increase sales if you meet certain needs and beliefs. That’s why it is a good idea to include information about dietary restrictions, customs, and religious practices. The growing number of customers is interested, for example, in vegetarian and vegan diets. It is also a good idea to include at least one dish in your menu, e.g., for customers who must avoid certain products for health reasons and need to be on a gluten-free or lactose-free diet. You can also consider adding dishes to your restaurant’s menu that are religious-specific. Remember to research first and assess the potential number of interested customers before implementing such a change. To highlight the dishes, they need to be clearly labeled. In UpMenu, you can use ready-made labels for your entire menu. You can also create your own labels and use them on your menu template.  An example of menu writing labels

3. Stimulate the senses with rich menu descriptions 

It is essential to give each menu item an appealing name, provide a list of ingredients, and add persuasive food descriptions to entice customers to order them. Let your customers imagine each dish’s flavors, textures, and aromas. Naming each dish is important, as it helps sell it. 

However, don’t forget about your loyal customers. If they have visited your restaurant before, they probably know what they are looking for, so it is important to name a product clearly, meaning that a customer shouldn’t need to read the whole description to understand a dish. 

Fast facts about menu descriptions
  • According to a study presented by Posist, appetizing food descriptions can provoke 45% of people to buy specific food items.
  • McDonald Paper shared that sales increased by 25% when the owner learned how to write to describe food. If you neglect to focus on your menu, you’re cutting down your potential sales and revenue.
While creating your menu descriptions, try to find the right balance. Remember that you don’t have to use adjectives for all ingredients. Instead, concentrate on the ones that distinguish your dish. 

If you don’t know which adjectives to use while menu writing, you can: 

In our example, we checked the adjectives for meat, but you can search adjectives for any other dish by simply putting the word you search adjectives for in a tool to generate adjectives.

Incorporating words that evoke the senses can excite diners and create their expectation of what they will get. Follow these three steps while menu writing.

  • Start with describing textures and flavor, for example,
    • Crispy
    • Velvety
    • Juicy
    • Succulent
    • Zesty
    • Savory
    • Spicy
    • Flaky
    • Buttery
    • Silky
    • Melt-in-your-mouth
  • Use additional words that could describe the cooking process of the dish, for example,
    • Slow-cooked
    • Char-grilled
    • Wood-fired
    • Roasted
    • Braised
    • Smoked
    • Flash-fried
    • Sous-vide
    • Griddled
    • Baked
  • Use adjectives describing how a customer will feel after eating your dish, for example:
    • Satisfied
    • Nourished
    • Fulfilled
    • Content
    • Gratified
    • Energized
    • Refreshed
    • Relaxed
    • Satiated
    • Rejuvenated
    • Comforted

When you write a menu description, use adjectives most restaurants don’t include

4. Infuse a sense of nostalgia and storytelling into your menu items

By creating backstories that evoke emotions and memories and by tying them to the history or culture of your restaurant, you can create a sense of nostalgia.

Discuss with your chef which dishes you offer have an interesting history of creation and which recipe has a captivating story. You can use this story to create menu descriptions. If you don’t have such a story, use your imagination and make it up 🙂

Keep the number of dishes on your menu, the description of which will be based on history. Create a maximum of three such menu descriptions.

When looking for ways on how to write a menu for a restaurant, make sure to include your story

5. Ensure your menu descriptions are short and descriptive

Don’t create too long menu descriptions. As we already mentioned, menu descriptions that use descriptive adjectives can increase sales by up to 27%, but if they are too long, there is a risk that your customers won’t read them. Again, the key is to keep balance.

When creating menu writing samples, make sure to keep descriptions short

6. Use high-quality, appetizing photos to attract customers

Regarding the paper menu, restaurants usually don’t put photos of the dishes. There are several reasons for that:

  • Including photos in a paper menu can make the menu too large
  • Photos may lead to customer dissatisfaction if the dish served in a restaurant is not the same as in the photo
  • Too many photos distract customers’ attention from menu descriptions

However, we strongly recommend adding menu item photos to your online restaurant menu.

In UpMenu, you can choose one of the available templates for menus, add photos of the dishes, and menu descriptions. In addition, we prepared a helpful guide about food photography tips to help you take appetizing photos of your dishes.

When writing menu descriptions, always add images of your food items

7. Consider creating funny menu descriptions

To add a sense of humor and personality while creating a menu for a restaurant, consider adding witty and creative descriptions that add a lighthearted and fun tone to your offerings.

Funny menu writing may result in attracting many customers. However, it doesn’t necessarily suit each restaurant’s overall brand and tone of communication. Depending on your communication style, decide if it is a good option for your restaurant to have funny menu descriptions or not. Always remember about your brand consistency.

Funny menu descriptions of food are a great way to get clients interested in your dishes while giving them a good laugh

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8. Never forget about your target audience

Another aspect is to tailor your menu to suit the preferences and tastes of your target audience. Depending on who your target customers are, your restaurant website, the menu items your offer, and their menu writing should be different. It would help if you used other words to describe your dishes for, for example, students and others for families with children.

9. Keep your menu descriptions fresh and up-to-date

Remember to review your menu descriptions regularly. Check your sales reports and pay attention to any tendency that you notice. For example, some dishes become your best sellers because of their photos and menu descriptions.

If you implement any ingredient changes or introduce a seasonal offer, update your menu. Unfortunately, each change would require you to print your menu again for a paper menu. That’s why we recommend creating an online ordering menu for your restaurant, which you can update quickly via an online ordering platform.

Try to balance keeping the menu fresh and exciting while ensuring consistency and stability for customers.

10. Make sure your multi-language menu is easy to understand.

If your customers speak different languages, you can make it easier for them to order by creating separate menus in each language or using graphics to help them find the right section. One way to do this is by using different font colors or italicizing the text to distinguish between the languages. This can save customers time and make their dining experience more enjoyable.

If you offer a multi-language paper menu, don’t forget to create a restaurant website. Thanks to that, you will increase the number of potential customers.

11. Create your own menu descriptions

It may sound ridiculous but believe us, it’s an important thing. Prepare your own menu descriptions. Don’t copy them. It’s not fair, and If this gets out, customers will lose trust in you.

Fast facts about the connection between menu descriptions and food waste reduction

There appeared some studies and reports that suggest that menu descriptions can have an impact on food waste reduction:

  • A study by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration found that customers were more likely to order dishes with descriptive and enticing menu descriptions, resulting in fewer unfinished meals and less food waste.
  • According to a report by the World Resources Institute, using menu descriptions that accurately reflect the portion size and presentation of a dish can help reduce food waste by encouraging customers to order only what they can eat.
  • A study by the UK’s Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) found that restaurants that made simple changes to their menu descriptions, such as using the word “smaller” instead of “side,” were able to reduce food waste by up to 13%.

12. Don’t make menu writing mistakes

Another critical aspect is not making menu writing mistakes. We recommend avoiding the following most common menu descriptions mistakes:

  • Misspellings, typos, and errors
  • Don’t use too many adjectives – menu descriptions need to be easy to read
  • Avoid using words that may have negative connotations such as ”burnt” or “greasy”, and instead use “charred” or “velvety smooth”.
  • Keep your menu concise and short
  • Remove currency signs from your menu if possible. Use the information about the quantity instead.
  • Place prices near the name or description of the dish to prevent price shopping, especially if the items have significant price differences.
  • Avoid mixing different amounts, such as $3.55 and $9.49. Instead, try to make all prices whole dollar amounts or end them in .99 or .50.
  • Use a smaller font size for the price to avoid making it a focal point of the menu.

An example of both correct and incorrect food menu descriptions

If you want to know more about increasing profits with a well-developed menu, check our article on menu engineering.

13. Create a QR menu, mobile menu, and website menu

1. Start with your website menu

While menu writing, don’t forget about your restaurant’s online presence. Adding menu item descriptions to your online restaurant menu is essential. All tips we described above are also related to your online restaurant menu. 

Helpful resources to create your online menu

In UpMenu, when you create a website menu, it is already mobile-optimized. Thanks to this, your customers can browse your restaurant website on any device.

 Use menu templates to write a menu
2. Don’t forget about your QR code menu

If you want to speed up the ordering process in your restaurant, consider implementing tableside ordering.

Use a QR code menu builder to create a digital restaurant menu in just a few minutes.

Key Takeaways

  • Menu writing helps to increase your restaurant’s sales and influences your customers’ behavior.
  • Always highlight the origin or location of your ingredients to show quality and freshness.
  • Don’t forget about the information on dietary restrictions. 
  • Use descriptive and sensory words for your menu writing.
  • Consider using storytelling to target your customers’ five senses when describing your menu items.
  • Always tailor your menu to suit the preferences and tastes of your target customers.
  • Add original pictures of your dishes to your online menu.
  • Try to avoid making menu writing mistakes.
  • Create QR menu, mobile menu, and website menu for better promotion and accessibility.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

To write a good description of a menu, you should follow these steps:

  1. Start with a delicious introduction: Begin by describing the type of cuisine or theme of the menu. This could include the cultural background, special ingredients or flavors, or unique cooking techniques. This will give the reader a general idea of what to expect from the menu.
  2. List the dishes: List the dishes in the menu, starting with appetizers, then entrees, and then desserts. You can group similar dishes, such as vegetarian or seafood.
  3. Use descriptive language: Use descriptive language: Use adjectives to describe the dishes, highlighting their key ingredients, textures, and flavors. Be creative with your language and try to make the dishes sound as delicious and tempting as possible. For example, instead of saying “chicken sandwich,” you could say “succulent grilled chicken breast served on a freshly-baked artisan bun with a zesty aioli spread.”
  4. Mention dietary information: If there are any vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or other special dietary options, make sure to highlight them. This will make it easier for customers to find dishes that meet their dietary needs.
  5. Include prices: Make sure to include the prices of each dish on the menu. This will help customers plan their order based on their budget.
  6. Proofread: Before finalizing the menu description, proofread it for spelling and grammatical errors. You want to make sure that the description is clear and easy to read.

    Careful planning and thought must go into creating great cuisine. Here are five crucial elements to remember:

    • Variety: A successful menu should provide a range of foods that satisfy various preferences, dietary requirements, and tastes. This may include vegetarian selections, gluten-free or low-carb choices, and a variety of flavor profiles.
    • Pricing: Menu prices should be reasonable and representative of the entire eating experience. Offering offers or discounts on particular days or times of the week is one way to do this.
    • Consistency: It is crucial to include consistency to your menu, which builds consumer trust and delivers a satisfying eating experience. This includes maintaining uniformity in flavor profiles, cooking methods, and portion proportions.
    • Seasonality: Incorporating seasonal ingredients or dishes can create a sense of excitement and freshness on the menu. This can include highlighting local produce or changing the menu with the seasons.
    • Marketing: Effective marketing of the menu can help generate interest and drive sales. This can include using social media to showcase dishes, offering specials for certain times of the day, and promoting the menu with eye-catching visuals.
    A detailed description of the food and drinks served at a particular event or venue is known as a menu planning description. This description includes the details of the ingredients, preparation methods, culinary styles, and presentation strategies used to make the menu.

    Along with information on each item’s price and accessibility, it could also contain details about dietary requirements, such as vegetarian or gluten-free alternatives. In addition to ensuring that customers or visitors are aware of the food alternatives available, a well-planned menu description can help create a seamless and memorable eating experience.

    A few standard procedures to consider while listing the meals on a menu regarding their appropriate sequence. Here are some suggestions:

    1. Appetizers or starters: These foods, often in smaller servings or on shareable plates, should be included first. They could be dips, little snacks, soups, or salads.
    2. Main Courses: These courses, including entrees, main dishes, or larger quantities, should be listed after the appetizers. They can be arranged according to the type of cuisine, protein source, or cooking technique.
    3. Sides: vegetables, cereals, and other add-ons can be listed as sides following the main courses if necessary.
    4. Desserts: These dishes can be listed at the end of the menu and can include various sweet options.
    5. Beverages: Lastly, beverages such as alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks can be listed at the end of the menu.
    Picture of Juliusz Dzierlatka

    Juliusz Dzierlatka

    Digital content creator with +7 years experience in marketing, helping restaurants streamline daily operations.

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