- Proper menu design can increase average check as well as number of items ordered.
- Sorting menu items by popularity and profitability, plus adding design elements such as boxes and icons, are simple measures that go a long way in menu design.
- Find a free restaurant menu template at the end of this article.
A well-designed food menu or bar menu can lead to a 10% increase in average check sizes, or more, according to Gregg Rapp, a menu engineer who has designed menus for leading restaurants for nearly 40 years. Restaurant menu design is both an art and a science. Menu engineering, as it’s sometimes called, goes far beyond what simply looks pretty on a page. A well-made menu template dives into the psychology of the customer, guiding where their eyes go when looking through a menu and influencing the thought process that ultimately leads to their order.
Restaurant menu templates worth using treat the menu like real estate, listing prices in just the right place, structuring food and drink categories according to how many items a customer should order, and incorporating proven nudges that cue the customer into spending more and being more inclined for upsell.
While we’ve included a free menu template at the end of this article for you to use, we recommend reading these helpful tips on how to effectively put that template to use.
The Importance of a Restaurant Menu Template
Following the right menu template can lead to customers ordering more items as well as more profitable items.
And while engineering the perfect menu may sound complicated, it’s not all that difficult. No advanced skill in Photoshop or InDesign is needed, nor is hiring a professional designer. Most of the time, menu design is just a matter of shifting text to a different part of the menu, putting a box around a particular item or section, adding an icon here and there, and playing around with how the price is displayed. In many cases, implementing the few quick fixes below could lead to dramatic lifts in sales.
Using a high-quality menu template like the one below is one of the quickest, simplest, and cheapest ways to boost profitability. Think about all the time, money, and effort it takes to promote your restaurant on social media, run an ad on Google, and create specials for holidays like Mother’s Day. A well-designed menu provides great benefits without requiring any changes in kitchen operations or paid marketing.
Before Restaurant Menu Design, Determine Costs and Sales
You may already be thinking about how to work magic with the free menu template below, but don’t lay anything out just yet. Before you put pen to paper, it’s important to assess everything you serve. Namely, how much does each item cost to produce and how well is it selling?
1. Break menu items down by cost and popularity
To cost out your restaurant menu, first break each item down by ingredient, and how much of each ingredient is used in a single serving. Then, divide the bulk cost of your ingredients by the amount used per serving to get the exact cost of producing a single serving of each item. It’s extremely important to know the cost of every item on your menu down to the penny. It’s pretty difficult, after all, to determine an item’s profitability if you don’t know how much it costs to make in the first place.
Once you have your costs figured out, take a look at your sales to get a feel for your most popular items. If you’ve been open for long enough, chances are you already know the top sellers from your food menu and drink menu. There’s no exact cutoff for what determines whether an item is popular. Just use your judgment in what appears to be selling above average and below average within each category. Compare apples to apples here: Appetizers should be measured against other appetizers, vegetarian entrees should be measured against other vegetarian entrees and not necessarily meat entrees, etc.
2. Place each menu item into one of four categories
After calculating costs and determining relative popularity, you’ll want to sort each menu item into one of four categories. These categories are universally recognized with the labels listed below. As funny as they may sound, they’re also pretty self-explanatory:
- Stars: high profitability, high popularity
- Plow Horses: low profitability, high popularity
- Puzzles: high profitability, low popularity
- Dogs: Low profitability, low popularity
Not every item on your restaurant menu is going to be a star. Dogs are okay, and can actually serve a good purpose if used correctly. For example, you can include a high-priced steak (typically a low-profitability item) that makes the rest of your menu items seem less expensive by comparison.
The important thing is that you know where each item stands on the grid, so you know where to place it during the menu design process. We recommend sorting your items into these categories prior to using our free menu template below.
3. Envision “the perfect check” with your menu design
At a conventional full-service restaurant, a perfect check might be an appetizer, entree, side, dessert, and two drinks. Of course, different restaurants represent different concepts, so the concept of a perfect check will vary according to what your ideal customer would order. For a small plates restaurant, a perfect check may be two items from each of your three categories. For a fast-casual burger spot, it may be an entree, side, and soft drink.
Not every menu category needs to be included in a perfect check. It may be that the ideal customer would order an appetizer, soup, or salad, for example, but not all three. At the end of the day, you’re looking to have an end goal in mind of the number and type of dishes you’d like to guide customers to order from your menu.
How to Use a Menu Template
Menu design is all about directing customers’ eyes where you want them to go. This means pointing people towards the stars and puzzles wherever possible, as well as getting them to come as close to that perfect check you can.
Separate menu items into categories
Put the highest-priority categories at the top of each page. If you’re pushing seafood over meat, for example, you’ll want to list your section of seafood entrees at the top of the page, with meat entrees in a separate section below. Eyes naturally float to the top of each page, so anything listed here will grab people’s attention first.
A two-page menu is ideal
A two-page menu encourages customers to order more items and provides valuable space to properly distribute your menu sections. A one-page menu or menu board subtly restricts order volume and a trifold menu can be overwhelming with too many options. There’s no hard and fast rule on two-page menus though. Ultimately, choose whatever best suits your restaurant.
Formatting Prices is Critical in Menu Design
Price plays an important role for virtually every customer, but menu design also has ways of making price matter less and mouth-watering options stand out more. You’ll see these pricing principles in action in our free menu template below.
- The first thing to do with your menu template is drop the dollar sign ($) from all items. The more characters associated with a price, the bigger the reminder to your customers of how much an item costs.
- Unless you’re a fast-casual restaurant looking to get through lines quickly, avoid having prices listed as a separate column alongside each item. This menu design otherwise steers customers’ eyes to look at the price first, find what’s cheapest, and then see if they like the item tied to the price. By listing the price at the end of each item’s title or description, you’re breaking up the structure and essentially forcing the customer to determine whether they want the item first, and evaluate the price after their mind is already made up.
- Apply this same method to not only your food menu but your drink menu and dessert menu as well. Always keep pricing in mind when you’re browsing through design templates.
Add Boxes and Icons to Your Menu Template
Additional visual elements in your menu design will make a world of difference. Whatever your restaurant menu template may look like, keep in mind the goal of pushing people toward your stars and puzzles.
Putting a box around a mouthwatering item, or group of items, is a surefire way to attract a customer’s attention. It’s as simple as that: Find a desired item or category to call out, whether it’s on your food menu or drink/cocktail menu, add a box around it, and it will subtly generate appeal to the eye.
Similarly, icons for “house favorites” or a related phrase are design elements that are sure to boost a menu’s visual appeal.
Design to Sell
When it comes to menu design, be sure to first understand which items you’re trying to promote. Then it’s just a matter of putting those items in a place where the eye is naturally prone to see them. Incorporate boxes and icons for an extra push, and structure prices in a way that softens their blow. Also keep in mind that these menu design concepts apply to dinner menus and brunch menus alike, as well as drink menus and wine lists, chalkboards, printable takeout menus, and virtually any other type of menu that an eatery can offer.
We hope you enjoy this free menu template and can incorporate these lessons into creating the perfect restaurant menu design. In addition to this high-resolution menu template, Pared provides amazing benefits for restaurants looking to solve the age-old issue of staffing. Looking to bring on staff with ease? Sign up to see what Pared can do for you today.
Free Menu Template
Ready to get started? This two-page template is the perfect launching point for your restaurant’s menu. Find instructions for use below.
How to use this template:
1. Click here to open the template.
2. Click “Make a copy.”
3. Fill in your item names and descriptions, with the prices in place of “XX.”
4. Download as a PDF and print.