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Tanya_headshotBy: Tanya Gagnon

People eat with their eyes, and more so in a restaurant than anywhere else.  Your menu is the one piece of marketing material that can have the biggest impact on your bottom line because of its visual attractiveness and emotional connection.  The menu does more than just list dishes the restaurant has to offer; menus connect patrons emotionally with the food and the restaurant through beautiful pictures, and tantalizing menu item descriptions.  The menu represents the restaurant and its brand to the customer, showing what makes it an experience worth having.

A well designed menu is one of your best sales tools and can help ensure higher ticket sales and more satisfied customers, if it elicits a more emotional connection.

With that in mind, here are 8 tips for how to design a menu that sells.  How does your current menu compare?

1.     Theme: Your Brand Experience

Everything about a restaurant, from the food to the décor, sends a message to customers. That message should be reflected in the menu as well. The more the customer is involved in the restaurant experience, the more memorable your establishment, making it much more likely that your customers will return.

2.     Fonts

Do not use more than 3 to 4 fonts in your menu, this makes customers work too hard to read the content. Menu fonts should be clear and easy to read, particularly since some customers might not see as well as others.

3.     Layout

Too many things going on can make a menu look cluttered, turning people off from reading it. Consult with a professional graphic designer on how to design a menu that’s clear, straightforward, and highlights your best sellers and most profitable items.

4.     Simplicity

Some restaurants have several different menus; for specials, drinks, seasonal items, happy hour appetizers, and so on. Showcasing a wide selection is all well and good, but too many menus make it difficult for customers to keep track of which is which.

5.     Descriptions

Descriptions of menu items should be appealing, but also short and to the point. Longer paragraphs will make customers tune out. Don’t make your customers have to work too hard. Keep item descriptions simple, but don’t be afraid to use visual words.  “Gourmet Swiss cheese, and juicy garden tomatoes layered together on a just-baked Ciabatta roll” sounds more appealing than “swiss cheese and tomatoes on a ciabatta roll.”

6.     Draw attention to the items you want to sell

While overlong descriptions are a turn-off, having one or two that are slightly longer can serve to set off those items so that customers’ eyes are drawn to them. This increases sales. Another way to draw attention to specials and signature dishes is by surrounding them with borders, or even a bit of white space.

7.     Price placement

Many menus put items and descriptions on the left side of the page, with a line to the price on the right. This encourages people merely to scan the list for the cheapest item. Instead, prices should be positioned alongside the descriptions, to shift focus to the items themselves, rather than their cost.

8.     Printing

Eating at a restaurant is a full sensory experience and the menu is not just for the eyes. Menu material can be just as important as how it’s designed. Card stock? Cloth? Laminated menus? Each sends a different message and aligns with a different style of restaurant. Is it smooth and clean? Is it printed on butcher paper? Or is it a placemat that stays in front of your consumer the whole time? But in any event, high quality printing is an important investment. Skimping on printing costs can lead to shoddy, sloppy-looking menus that send customers the wrong message.


No matter the price point of your menus, make sure they are always clean and in good repair. Nothing is less appetizing than a sticky or crushed menu.

Tanya Gagnon is Founder and Principal of Miss Details Design, a Scottsdale based sensory branding and graphic design firm focusing on the hospitality industry.  Find out more at


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