Smart menu design is more important than you might think: a well-planned digital menu can improve the entire dining experience, boost the perceived value of your brand, strategically drive customer buying decisions and, ultimately, increase your profits. First, make sure your offering itself is carefully considered, then follow our tips below to ensure you’re presenting it in the most effective way possible.

9 tips for better menu design

  1. Perfect placement. When we look at a menu, our eyes typically scan the centre first, before moving to the top right corner and then the top left. This is known as the Golden Triangle and is prime real estate, so place your most profitable dishes down the centre line and in the top corners. Statistically, the top two dishes in each section are the most likely to be ordered, followed by the last item in the list, so position dishes accordingly. 
  2. Use negative space. If a menu is full of text, the eye will naturally be drawn to open spaces. Use this to your advantage, placing dishes with the highest profit margins in their own space, away from the rest of the items. 
  3. Employ decoy dishes. Placing expensive dishes towards the top of the menu creates the perception that following items are of better value. Encouraging people to think they’ve found a bargain means they’re likely to spend more. 
  4. Incorporate visual cues. In addition to placement, there are other ways to highlight particular items and guide a customer’s decision-making process. Guide attention to certain dishes by using bold or italic text, boxes, ribbons or — in the case of digital menus — interactive components. Don’t overdo it, as you don’t want clutter; a good approach is to highlight only one item per menu category, e.g. one main or one dessert. 
  5. Storytelling is key. Pay close attention to how you describe your dishes. Anything that sounds far-fetched is likely to be ignored, so avoid superlative claims. However, today’s consumer is interested in the story behind the food: use adjectives that emphasise provenance, quality or uniqueness. Write longer descriptions for your most profitable dishes to help them stand out.
  6. Include menu modifiers. You’re likely already using modifiers to drive sales; examples include offering an additional side for a main course or an extra topping on your burgers. Give thought to which items are already frequently purchased together, and use creative new suggestions to boost profits: recommend the ideal wine pairing for your best-selling steak, offer a glass of port alongside your cheeseboard or bump up the margins on desserts by featuring coffees or liqueurs as add-ons. Be strategic in how many modifiers you use, as too many will crowd your menu. 
  7. Clever currency. The way in which you present price information can also make a difference. Removing currency symbols reduces how much consideration a customer gives to the price of each dish, while listing all of the prices in a column will have the opposite, negative effect. ‘Charm pricing’ is a useful tool, meaning that a meal priced at €10.99 will be perceived as better value than the same meal offered at €11; however, higher end establishments may benefit more from the use of round numbers, as they can appear more sophisticated. 
  8. Use photos with care. While photos can make printed menus look tacky or crowded, adding photos to your digital menu can help encourage sales — provided they are of good quality. Choose high-definition, professional photos that accurately depict your food and make everything look mouthwatering; it’s better to skip the imagery altogether rather than have blurry, out-of-focus shots, and generic or stock images won’t have the same impact. If you’d just like to include a small number of photos to add colour and interest, make sure they’re the very best ones you have. 
  9. Include a call to action. Don’t forget that your digital menu is a marketing opportunity. Create a call to action that gets your customers to connect more closely with your brand while in the queue, or directly after their meal. Whether it’s a prompt to ask about daily specials, follow your restaurant on social media or sign up to a mailing list for future deals, your digital menu is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. You could even integrate user-generated content, such as customer reviews or social media posts. 

Ten Kites offers bespoke, fully customisable menu design. Get in touch today to find out how we can create a menu unique to your business.