Creating the Best Menu for Your Restaurant
Updated: July 9, 2015
A restaurant menu is the key player in many aspects of the business. It is the only chance the chef gets to communicate with the customer before they decide to order at that establishment, and for that reason it needs to convey the style, the favorite dishes, the quality of the food and the personality that created all of it.
From there, it serves as a hook to get people through the door. People will always relate the food they see or read on the menu to what they actually receive. The same apply with a shiny presence online with the restaurant themes.
What NOT to put on a Menu
Before we outline the things to make a menu good, it’s important to outline why we are leaving things out and the reasons behind those choices:
Thankfully, this is dying for e.g in the UK, however, restaurant menus that haven’t had a menu revamp in the last three or four years (we’ll get to that later) and most European holiday locations, there are pictures of lots of the meals, all dished up on the plate.
This is done in good faith, restaurant owners want their customers to see what they’re getting, or what it is, if they don’t know.
The problem is that the photos rarely do the food justice- I’m excluding fast food here, that’s always bad– and tend to look tacky and artificial, which only gets worse when you try to edit the shots.
While a lot of pictures are bad, there are some exceptions, where few and select photos are used.
A good example of this is Pizza Express’ latest menu, which uses a couple of photos to add contrast to the page.
Notice that they are all leafy, healthy and green foods. This breaks up the stale look that photos can give. Avoid dark, earthy colors and blocky or uniform food such as steak/soup. It will look like old mush.
Too many items
This is seen often in oriental and chain restaurants.
Again, this is done with good intentions.
The restaurant is trying to say to the customer ‘LOOK, WE CAN COOK YOU ANYTHING YOU WANT, EVER!’
However, this actually says ‘we do fifty meals, but we can’t do a single one well.’
Customers want to know that you take care in preparing each dish and that you’re using fresh ingredients for everything.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you must be using frozen or packet goods to cook the huge range of things on the menu.
Also, have in mind that customers are using restaurant apps to find you and can make a review your business.
KISSmetrics did an interesting article giving a more detailed opinion on how too many choices can damage you sales.
If the adjective you’re using isn’t describing the way it’s cooked or isn’t something that makes the food unique, e.g. Rainbow Trout, then it’s probably your enemy.
You may really want to tell them about your ‘Succulent Juicy and Tender Slow-Roasted Organic Duck Breast with a Fresh and Exciting Citrus Sauce That’s Honestly Great,’ but consider what you actually need to say and what is you trying to sell.
GOOD things for a menu
These are the things you really want to be showcasing on the menu.
What’s more important than the content though is the thought process behind it, as a good understanding of what a restaurant menu should look like will flow naturally into the product.
Consider what represents YOU as a business
This comes above menu creation and lies within the whole foundation of your business.
- Are you about food of a certain nationality, burgers, pasta, steak?
- Do you want an emphasis on high-end artistic food, sharing food or filling food?
Consider the most important things about your business and boil that down into the menu. This will make the next point really easy.
Keep it Simple
Once you’ve identified what makes your food special try to keep that at the core of what you serve.
Ideally, you want less than ten main meals on the menu. This suggests that you have something really special to give to people and that you care about how you do it.
Byron Hamburgers are an excellent example of this:
They have exactly ten mains and they fit on one A4 page with all of the sides and desserts, with plenty of space to spare. This is perfect.
How can they pull this off?
They have The Byron story. A simple outline of the things that make them special:
- Do one thing and do it properly
- Take good Scottish Beef
- Cook the hamburgers medium – not well done
- Serve in proper squishy buns with minimal fuss
- No unnecessary frills (except a pickle)
- Comfortable environment and good service
This feeling of specialist cooking is easily transferable to any type of cuisine, whether it’s a specific meal, or a nation. Just do it well.
Decide whether to make seasonal changes
If your speciality is local, organic food, then make sure that you change your restaurant menu with the seasons to accommodate the different foods of the year.
Obviously, if you specialise in burgers, you won’t change the whole menu every month, but a small change keeps things fresh and keeps the customer coming back for what’s new.
A note to watch out on with that: don’t change something if it’s your most popular dish.
This might not be the dish you decided was your showcase piece, but loyal customers will expect some level of consistency when returning.
Guest Post by Mike
This article is written on behalf of Fridge Freezer Direct, who regularly blog about the best new kitchen equipment for restaurants and catering.