The most common mistakes with restaurant menus

December 15 2016

Marketing techniques are constantly developing and changing, especially in recent years with the rise of social media. However, the most important piece of marketing literature of any restaurant is still the humble menu.

Whether it’s a single piece of card, a multi-page document or a simple chalkboard, if your menu is hard to read, confusing or too complicated, then you run the risk of creating a negative impression with your customers before they’ve been seated.

The results caused by a poorly executed menu can vary from a customer not ordering a certain item, to deciding they never want to return. Either way, the results are sure to damage your takings.

Luckily, we’re rounded up the most common mistakes restaurateurs make with their menu designs:

Bigger isn’t better

Littering your menu with too many dishes only serves to confuse and overwhelm the customer. Instead, you should opt for a carefully considered selection of dishes that showcases the range and variety of options you can serve up well.

The more dishes you present to the diner, the longer it takes for them to decide what they want to order. It therefore makes the ordering process less painful for everyone if you keep your menu concise and simple.

The benefits of a slimmed-down menu are felt in the kitchen too. Chefs don’t have to remember how to prepare an unnecessarily bloated number of dishes and can instead specialize in serving fewer dishes, but with added confidence and finesse.

With an improved standard of food coming out of the kitchen, customers are sure to return.

Poor design and layout

When it comes to your menu, appearances count for a lot, so don’t just throw it together.

A menu should be easy to read, with customers being able to scan it from top to bottom in a few minutes. Try to keep design logical with meat dishes, fish, pizza, pasta, starters, sides and so on grouped separately.

Also, customers generally appreciate dishes to be ordered from cheapest to most expensive. There can and should be exceptions, if only to keep it interesting, but as long as it follows a loosely ascending price format, customers won’t feel like they’re being cheated into spending more than they want to. This, in turn, creates a feeling of mutual respect between the customer and the restaurant.

As for the actual visual design of the menu, choose a colour palette, fonts and paper that feel in keeping with the tone and atmosphere of your restaurant. When it comes to listing your dishes, try to stick to two fonts to prevent the menus from looking too busy. A common approach is to bold the name and use a slimmer font for its description below.

Maintain a simple layout by having dishes on the left and prices on the right. Many restaurants think they’re being helpful by linking the two with dots or lines, but more often than not, it shows a lack of sophistication.

Proofread your menu

Typos and grammatical errors are avoidable mistakes that only damage your customers’ perception of your restaurant.

You may lack an excellent command of the English language, but if you let a few members of your staff check it over, you’ll have a better chance of weeding out any mistakes.

Keep descriptions simple

How do you expect customers to order anything if they can’t understand the name or ingredients of the dishes?

Save yourself the bother of constantly having to explain certain dishes by letting the menu do the job for you with plain-speaking descriptions that are easy to understand.

Again, keeping it simple benefits both parties and streamlines the order process. As with complicated dish names, lengthy descriptions will more often than not stifle your guests’ decisions.

Use the dollar sign only when necessary

Research suggests that customers are more likely to spend more when dollar signs are left off menus.

While we’re not suggesting that you omit prices altogether, use the dollar sign only when you need to. Splashing it about liberally may create the feeling with customers that you’re all about the money. And yes, while a restaurant is a business, diners don’t want to feel like walking piggy banks.

Keep it clean

What does it say about the state of a restaurant’s kitchen if the menus are filthy?

Presenting a customer with an old, dirty or wrinkled menu only creates a negative impression. This is where choosing a durable paper stock comes in. While it may not be right for every eaterie, laminating your menu means you’re able to wipe them down and use them for longer.