Secret tips and tricks behind a restaurant menu

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Everyone at one point in time has gone out to a restaurant to eat. And while at that restaurant you’ve probably spent some time scouring through the various appetizers, main courses, deserts and drinks before deciding on the first thing that popped out at you. It’s no secret that restaurants are designed with specific triggers and marketing tactics in mind. For example, McDonalds (yes, in this example we call it a restaurant) uses red and yellow as their theme colors because those have been proven to stimulate hunger. Did you ever think that the menu you were so longingly pondering over is also designed to guide your order choice in a particular direction?

Typically, the main driver behind these menu designs is to maximize the profits, however, there are also some ideas, that are also motivated by other purposes such as encouraging diners to make healthier choices.

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Whether you are a frequent diner, or you are considering designing your own menu for your restaurant, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind.

1. Pay attention to how prices are displayed




A good menu design will not use the actually currency sign in next to the price for the item. Research from the Culinary Institute of America has shown that if the currency is shown, the diners are more likely to choose cheaper items. Also, the prices will not be displayed in a column design that allows the diners to easily compare the prices between options. Instead, they should be staggered a few spaces after the end of the food description. For example:

Jumbo shrimp and scallop scampi	- 14
Grass-fed Cajun rib-eye with Gorgonzola and caramelized onions - 24
Pecan encrusted salmon with asparagus and baked potato - 18

2. Learn the way that customers view the menu itself


Ever been to restaurant that had such a huge menu you were completely overwhelmed and ended up just choosing something you didn’t really want because the thought of reading through 20 pages of food descriptions was just too much? A good menu lets the guest see all of the items at once. This is the best way for them to select something they really are interested in. It is also a good way to perhaps persuade guests to choose something a little more expensive if it is something they really want. The average customer will spend approximately 110 seconds looking through the menu, so a good one is usually designed so that the most expensive items can be viewed in this time frame. Below you also see the typical path the diners eyes will take when looking at the menu.

If the most expensive items are placed in these areas, it may increase profits for the restaurant. Or, if the best dishes (best value, or best quality) are in this spot, the diners may really end up enjoying their food!

3. Dessert placement and options is very important


The staples of a good dessert menu include the five C’s: “coffee, citrus, caramel, chocolate and cheesecake”. Does the next menu you look at have these? Also good restaurateurs don’t place the dessert in the regular menu. This creates the possibility that diners may find a dessert they really like and not get an appetizer. Instead, the dessert menu will be given, separate, at the end of the meal, sort of like a special bonus.

Are you a potential restaurant menu designer yourself? These tips will definitely be useful for you initial layout and design principles. But also consider, that guests will feel really connected to your menu if it has some special and unique elements to it. Designing the menu yourself can be a great idea. If you are unfamiliar with design programs, considering using a one stop shop such as, where you can design and print easily. Or, if you are more advanced with design programs and like to it yourself, make sure to utilize a high quality printing service such as This will ensure that you have really impressive results for your customers.

Sometimes, designers include images of their own food. Unless you are going for that old “quick, cheap and greasy” feel, try to stay away from this as it can make your menu look a bit tacky. Instead, highlight menu items you think would like customers to pay attention to for example, with a logo or something that draws their eye, such as the phrase “Chef’s recommendation” or “Lighter choice”. Also consider that a good balanced menu will consist of 10 appetizers, 10 entrees and 6 deserts, so you don’t overwhelm your customers.