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Complete Guide: Restaurant Menu Design

Visual communication has a very effective and profound impact on human memory, behaviour and most importantly, decision-making.

Consumer behaviour and decision-making are the two most fundamental aspects of the restaurant industry in India. Both, essentially rely on the restaurant menu design and aesthetic.

Why Is Restaurant Menu Design So Important?

A restaurant menu is the most underrated marketing tool and directly affects the sales of your restaurant. It is a powerful tool that helps you to plan, promote and control the operational process as well as the customer’s experience.

From wine-appropriate music to authentic-sounding foreign names, restaurateurs have many ways to persuade diners into ordering high-profit meals. The Menu forms a centrepiece of that puzzle. 

More than just a list of menu items, a restaurant menu is a visual guide to the decision-making process that goes on in our brain reading it!


How a human body reacts to a restaurant menu design and layout

Let’s Look At All The Ways In Which You Can Enhance Your Restaurant Menu Design

1. The Language Of Graphics

Despite the growing digital market, many would argue that a physical copy of the menu is as relevant as competing mediums and platforms.

Visual graphics have proved to be a powerful motivator for customers’ ordering behaviour. Research shows that creative illustrations and photographs of food items, ingredients, and cultural references draw prompt attention to the diner. 

A Restaurant menu tells a lot about your restaurant’s brand value, food quality and vision to your customers this is why new-age restaurant makers focus heavily on the restaurant menu design and the physical feel of it.


Types of menu designs for restaurant business
A local restaurant in Ahmedabad by the name MIRCH MASALA serves North-Indian and Mughlai delicacies with a Bollywood-themed menu card. Notice how movie-centric graphics make a conversation with the diners as they glance through.

2. Mind Tricks

  • A majority of restaurants price their food items using numbers, alone. They avoid using the unit of currency. It is a very subtle yet effective means of bending the consumers’ perception of the food price. When the price of the food item has no currency symbol it normalizes the price for the buyer giving the impression that a cost is just a number.
  • The “Chef’s Special” is always something that customers look out for. Promoting signature dishes is at the very core of any restaurant business module. This feature is particularly aimed at influencing first-time customers. Labelling such a term will highlight the food item, the restaurant is banking on. Thereby, creating a unique mark on the overall dining experience.
  • Use of italics to describe food items as well as giving authentic/ fancy/ dramatic sounding names like Omelet Du Fromage increase the likeability of the dish. The market research also supports these findings by revealing that some words (organic, natural, fresh, etc.) on menu item labels may instigate a mouth-watering effect and can influence customers’ choices. Such word-play makes the dish appear very credible and appealing.

Product Positioning

A reader has an identifiable pattern of gaze movements across any menu. Usually, people gaze from top to bottom when they are given a list of things. Research shows that across a menu-card display people can more accurately recall the first and last items seen or reviewed.

Popular dishes like ‘the chef’s special’ are usually placed in the upper or lower corners of the page where the customers cast their initial and final glances.

Moreover, high profitable menu items are also placed separately in a box to highlight them. As a result, menu hot spots emerge, and with strategic placement of menu items on these spots, it is possible to draw the initial and repeated attention of customers to them in order to increase the possibility of their choice as well the restaurant sales.


The menu card for Plan B in Bengaluru offers a perfect example of how placing your product affects the choice of the customer. As a reader when you see this image ‘Curd Memories’ stands out among all other dishes owing to its placement.

Speaking Through Colours

Colours can have a subconscious impact on our perceptions and this can be applied to menu design in restaurants. They form the basis of visual language. Colour and food pairings can be especially powerful by leveraging the emotional connection to taste.

  • Red and yellow are the chief food colours, evoking the tastebuds and stimulating the appetite. Both red and yellow are also effective at grabbing attention. The fast-food industry has claimed this combination for a good reason—because it is effective.
  • In the gourmet food arena, you, of course, want to avoid a fast food connotation, however, these colours can still be very effective when used on their own and/or indifferent pairings.
    • Orange– a blend of red and yellow, naturally lends itself to food as another appetizing colour.
    • Green connotes eco-friendliness, vegetarian/vegan and healthy.
    • Blue is a soothing colour. It creates a calming effect. However, if you want your customers to feel hungry, then blue may not be your best option
  • Breweries and Bakeries opt for tones of brown which is a colour of trustworthiness
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Labelling and Layout

Studies suggest that a descriptive menu with a well-defined layout has a positive impact on the customer’s decision.

A good menu description helps the customer assimilate its pre-consumption expectations (value, taste, and quality) as well as its post-consumption evaluation.

For instance, any special feature of the menu item with reference to its brand, geographic origins, sensory and affective (family or patriotic) attributes can be evocatively used in its name to boost the customer’s interest in food items.

Descriptions alone may not have a positive impact on the customer per se, but the layout of a menu primarily dictates the overall consumer behaviour in terms of perceiving the food and the place. If the food items do not have enough space between one another it becomes confusing and rather tedious for the customer.

Hence, using the right fonts with clear typography and engaging description of the food item could make all the difference! Apart from that, cautionary notes pertaining to food quality and allergies behove the overall image of the restaurant in the customer’s mind.


Materials

Restaurants and cafes design their menu cards to suit the language of their cuisine.

For instance, a restaurant that serves pan-Asian cuisine would immensely benefit from using bamboo for its restaurant menu design.

Several eco-friendly cafes and eateries are opting for sustainable themes even with the material of their menus and furniture or interiors. Recycled cardboard, hand-made paper, and materials like hemp, even varieties of grass or wood are being used to create redolent menu cards. With the existing CNC printing technology, it is also a very convenient option.

Overall, there is a dire need to reduce non-renewable waste and therefore using sustainable materials is the way forward and can help you stand out from the competition.


Artisanal paper and wood are trending as preferred menu-card materials in new-age cafes and lounges

Food for Thought

Being the first point of communication between restaurant operators and customers, menus hold a grave value in the food industry.

What needs to be understood in restaurant menu design is that visual language and understanding cognitive behaviour to promote high-profit items but also provide the customer with a seamless, hassle-free ordering experience.

Visual communication is the most effective way to transfer information wing to the exceptional receptive qualities of the human mind.


Tools For Restaurant Menu Design

Here are some DIY tools to give your restaurant menu design a glow-up:


Hope this helps you in making your restaurant menu design amazing!

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