Your menu is the face of your restaurant. It greets potential diners posted in your window, it goes on every table in front of each guest. Menus are integral to building a loyal base of customers.

It’s the norm for modern restaurants to regularly update their menus to include new chef creations and seasonal flavors; even big chain restaurants change up their offerings relatively often.

Diners want new experiences from restaurants they already trust, and it’s your job as a restaurant operator to provide the flavors and experiences your diners crave.

Successful menus don’t simply add new dishes; they also pay close attention to menu formatting. The font, pricing, descriptions, and look of your menu has a drastic impact on guests’ spending habits.

The menu formatting tips in this article use real research to help you get more mileage out of every menu without the hassle of creating new dishes and adding additional overhead.

Descriptive Language

It’s essential for your menu to make a good impression. Dr. Brian Wansink, director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, told the New York Times that “descriptive menu labels increased sales by as much as 27%.”

Exotic techniques and ingredients give diners a new experience in addition to a meal. In the age of Instagram, unique preparations and adjectives grab guests’ attention and allow people to show off the great dining experiences they’ve enjoyed.

Dr. Wansink’s study found that descriptive language also increased diner satisfaction. Pleasing the brain with appetizing adjectives has the same effect as pleasing the taste buds – so give your customer’s minds something delicious to savor.


Friendly Numbers

Menu items should be priced for profit – and sometimes that means setting them low enough that guests will find them appealing. Gregg Rapp, menu engineer and consultant, uses the term “friendly numbers” to describe prices that are formatted to appear more approachable, even though they are priced high enough to make each dish profitable.

  • Prices ending in .99 connote value, but not necessarily quality.
  • Prices ending in .00, on the other hand, risk appearing stuffy.
  • Prices ending in .95 show guests you value their experience, without emphasizing the cheapness of the meal. – According to menu experts, this is the friendly price.

Whole numbers like $17 are often used to deliver profitable prices in a clean and simple format – this strategy is best for fine dining establishments.

Mobile Access

62% of consumers are less likely to visit your restaurant if they cannot locate or read a menu on their mobile device.

92% of consumers reported searching for a restaurant online before visiting. If your website requires lengthy load times or screen resizing, you risk losing their business to a restaurant that accommodates the user experience.

Make sure your menu is formatted for print, desktop, and mobile viewing to reach as many guests as possible. Your menu can be an accessible beacon to draw diners in, or a barrier that ignores web-browsing potential customers.

Picture Perfect

Menu consultants agree that quality photos can entice guests when used properly. Quick-service restaurants, big chains, and family-friendly restaurants can highlight certain dishes with colorful images, as long as they look delicious.

Graphic designer Janie Kliever reminds us that “This technique is all about making a menu item as appealing as possible so people want to order it. Placing poor-quality or unappetizing pictures will defeat the purpose.”

Some restaurants – especially high-end establishments – may prefer to use illustrations of food. Different artistic styles evoke different tones. Vintage-style line drawings work well in a French bistro, but cartoons may be more appropriate for a 24-hour diner.

Great service begins before a guest walks in your door. A great menu showcases your restaurant’s strengths and unique style, while also enticing guests to try new and exciting dishes.

Hungry for more menu tips? Check out our pieces on competitive menu pricing and tactful ways to change your menu.