Restaurant Menu Design: Expert Tips to Spark Excitement and Drive Revenue

Close up restaurant menu and food

Last updated on June 21st, 2023 at 11:17 am

There are numerous things that go into setting up a restaurant. From forming a legal business entity to hiring a head chef and establishing a menu, you’ll certainly be busy. While you’re taking care of all of those things, you’ll want to make sure you don’t overlook printing your menus. While a menu may seem like a small thing in comparison to everything else you’ve put into establishing your restaurant, it’s still a very important part. Believe it or not, the design of your restaurant menu plays a role in the success of your sales. Here’s how to design a standout menu to entice your audience.

Print menus on clipboards

Categorize your menu items

Once you have nailed down the items that will consistently be on your menu, you’ll want to categorize them. It’s best to group breakfast meals together, lunch, drinks, etc. Within those groups, you can further categorize by meal type. Have an array of sandwiches on your menu? Create a sandwich section! Do you offer a variety of pizzas? Create a section for that too! The more organized a menu is, the easier it is for your customers to read. A confusing menu may turn some customers away, and you certainly wouldn’t want that!

While you may want to include as many items as you come up with, it may actually do your restaurant a disservice to include too many options. I know, right? Is there really such a thing as too many options? In the world of restaurant menus, there is. The more unique your menu options are, the easier it is for your guests to decide what they want. A key aspect of how to make menus compelling is limiting the number of pages and items you offer. After all, it can be overwhelming enough to choose where to eat, but trying to sift through several similar dish options just adds to that. On top of that, having a long menu can actually hurt your sales. The longer it takes your customers to choose a dish and place their order, the slower the table turn time. This means you’ll be serving fewer guests. To increase efficiency and reduce the burden of choice for your customers, it is best to keep your restaurant menu on the shorter side.

However, if you have a long list of items that you can’t bear to remove,  consider introducing separate menus for these to prevent the main menu from appearing too cluttered. Some restaurant menu examples reveal a dip in appetizer orders when desserts share space on the main menu. A dessert menu lingering on the table can subtly tempt customers throughout their meal.

Design the Menu Layout

Welcome to the universe of restaurant menu design! Understanding that a good layout goes beyond listing your restaurant menu items is essential. It’s about marketing them strategically to enhance your sales. The concept of the Golden Triangle emerges from decades of research into eye movement patterns when customers scan different menu designs. Essentially, it refers to the three most prominent spots on your menu that will grab attention – the middle, the top right, and the top left. Leveraging this pattern is integral to an effective menu layout.

Imagine your restaurant menu design as a canvas and the Golden Triangle as the focal point of your masterpiece. It’s here that you’d want to showcase your best work – the dishes that highlight your culinary prowess and offer substantial profit margins. These could include your special entrees, unique appetizers, or signature dishes that define your restaurant’s identity.

Let’s dissect the Golden Triangle further:

  • The Middle: The center of your restaurant menu design is typically the first place a customer’s eyes land. It’s a prime location to highlight your specials, limited edition items, or chef’s recommended dishes. This spot holds the power to set the tone for the rest of the dining experience.
  • The Top Right: Once the middle has been scanned, the eyes usually wander to the top right corner. This position is traditionally reserved for showcasing main dishes that your restaurant takes pride in.
  • The Top Left: Finally, most patrons will glance over to the top left corner. It’s a strategic spot for appetizers which, when paired with entrees, can be a game changer.

Embracing the Golden Triangle principle in your menu layout is not about being manipulative. It’s about guiding your customers through a curated culinary journey. It ensures that your patrons are presented with the dishes you are most proud of, resulting in a more satisfying dining experience.

Remember, a well-structured menu layout is not just about aesthetics. It’s a strategic tool that guides customer choices, enhances dining experiences, and ultimately, drives your restaurant’s success.

Choose a Color Scheme

The magic of restaurant menu templates often lies in their color schemes. Colors can evoke particular emotions and set the mood, influencing customers’ dining experiences and food choices.

Color psychology is indeed fascinating! Did you know that red, for instance, can stimulate the appetite and invoke excitement? It’s an easy choice for fast-food establishments or those specializing in spicy cuisines. Green, meanwhile, resonates with freshness, health, and sustainability, making it ideal for vegan or organic restaurants.

Blue, a universally favored color, is tricky in the food realm since it’s known to suppress appetite. However, it can effectively complement a seafood menu or a coastal-themed eatery.

While choosing your color scheme, consider your restaurant’s overall brand, ambiance, and logo to create a cohesive dining experience. Aim for a scheme encompassing two to three main colors to avoid visual chaos.

Plated food next to the restaurant menu

Include photos

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If you have the space and are a more casual restaurant, feel free to include a few photos in your menu. These could be anything from pictures depicting entrees, or showcase the history of your restaurant. Has your restaurant been around for decades? Include photos of how it’s changed over the years! You could even give a little back story about how the restaurant was founded, and who the owner was. The options are endless. If you do opt to include pictures, it’s best to keep them sparse to avoid cluttering the menu.

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Avoid including dollar signs with prices

Cornell conducted a study and found that restaurant-goers who received a restaurant menu item list without dollar signs spent a significantly larger amount of money than those that received the menu with dollar signs. If you include a number next to your menu item, your guests will know that that indicates the price. Dollar signs tend to trigger negative feelings about spending money. If you can omit those signs, you can decrease those negative feelings. 

Pro tip: try to avoid listing the prices in a single column, as that will encourage comparison between prices.

Catered menu in a stand on a decorated table

Print your specials on separate sheets

Odds are your specials will change from time to time, whether it be daily, weekly, seasonal, etc. You could include them on your menu, but it may cost you significantly more to continuously reprint updated menus with new specials. To avoid spending extra time and money having to constantly update your menus, consider printing the specials on separate inserts that you can easily swap out when needed. This will allow you to switch up your specials as often as you want!

Professionally print your menus

You may be tempted to print your menus yourself on regular white computer paper, but here is why you should not do that. Investing in professionally printed menus will portray a more professional look and feel to your customers. A quality menu will show your customers that you care about their entire experience, right down to the menu they hold in their hands. Professionally printed menus will also hold up much longer than one printed on computer paper, as they are printed on more durable materials. On top of that, the resolution and colors will be much more vibrant. 

Professionally printing menus opens you up to so many more options. Need a custom size? You can order that! Printivity offers a range of sizes, including but not limited to 3.5” x 8.5”, 8” x 9”, 11” x 17” or custom size options. When it comes to paper type, you can choose from something as basic as 70 lb uncoated text paper to a more durable, cleanable and even waterproof option of 10 mil synthetic paper. Spills happen, so opting for a durable paper type will increase the life of your menus. If you are looking to print a folded menu, Printivity offers several options including half-fold, tri-fold and z-fold. 

5 Restaurant Menu Design Ideas

You’ve learned about categories, layout, and color schemes. Now, let’s spice things up with some menu design shop talk! Here are a few restaurant menu design styles that can elevate your place’s appeal.

  1. Minimalist Magic: Think clean lines, clear typography, and a simple color palette for a sophisticated, modern look.
  2. Bold and Bright: Vibrant colors and bold fonts exude energy and fun. It’s ideal for family-friendly or lively restaurants.
  3. Thematic Wonder: Themed menus can narrate a story, resonating deeper with customers. Reflect on your restaurant’s concept within your menu design.
  4. Rustic Charm: Elements like warm colors, handwritten fonts, and nature motifs can lend a charming rustic feel to your menu.
  5. Elegant Luxury: A rich color palette, ornate fonts, and high-quality materials spell luxury and exclusivity, ideal for fine dining establishments.

Remember, the best menu design is one that encapsulates your restaurant’s spirit, enchants your customers, and highlights your delicious food offerings. You’re now equipped with the knowledge to craft a menu that tantalizes both the appetite and eyes. Bon appétit!

Printing with Printivity

If you are looking to design restaurant menus, but are not quite sure where to start, feel free to reach out to Prinivity for guidance from our design experts. You can also download our templates to help guide you through the design process yourself. If you have any further questions, or you are ready to place your order, reach out to Printivity at 1-877-649-5463.

Don’t have time to design your menu? Printivity has you covered! We offer graphic design services to help you get your designs ready and printed quickly!


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