Menu writing tips : menu presentation

MENU PRESENTATION

In our series on how to write effective menus, we look at a range of topics and points for consideration. Here, we look at the importance of menu presentation and how to get it right for you.


What is the goal of a menu?

  • Your menu is your primary means of representation to your customers
  • It says exactly who you are and what you hope to convey to them
  • Its design needs to reflect the type of restaurant you are

Menu Presentation – What should my menu look like?

Your menu is one of the most powerful sales and marketing tools you have. How it looks and reads is as important as your restaurant design, service and food. Make sure that your menu is always up-to-date. Many of you will either display your menu outside your establishment and/or on the internet. Wherever you do display your menu, you need to synchronise its information. A top London restaurant was recently criticized by a food critic for not having the same dishes or prices on the menu as they had on the internet.


Top Tips

  • Make sure your menus are readable and smart. I can’t tell you how often I’ve walked past restaurants or hotels displaying sun bleached, dog-eared, lop-sided menus in menu displays – with print you can’t read. I’ve watched, sometimes for hours, as potential customers have walked up to these boards, screwed-up their faces, then walked off.
  • Get the right paper/card. The feel of the card or paper the menu is printed on should reflect the quality of your establishment.
  • Find a font that fits. Choose a font size and style that reflects you – but make sure it is easily readable in a dimly lit dining room.
  • Check-out the opposition. Look at similar establishments to your own – on the internet or local to you – to see how other people have designed their menus.
  • Make sure you have menus at your reception. Hotels all over the world are guilty of forgetting this fundamental rule: and of having receptionists who don’t have ANY knowledge of their restaurant or its content.
  • Always ensure hotel staff recommend their own restaurant. The first thing I do in any hotel I stay in, is, ask if it can recommend a nice restaurant. On my last calculation, 95% of them recommended a restaurant NOT in their hotel!

How much should I spend on my menus?

Spend as much as you can afford to truly reflect who you are and what you are trying to achieve. Don’t keep an old, dirty, expensive leather menu cover just to save money. It’s better to have a clean printed menu with simple clear font on fresh quality card/paper. Save money by printing menus in house – but invest in a quality printer and paper/card.


How should I design my menu?

There are no design rights or wrongs when it comes to menu presentation. Just ensure the menu reflects who you are. Remember to ask yourself/consider the following:
  • Is your restaurant fun and exciting, high end and sophisticated, simple and understated, family friendly? Once you establish your restaurant’s personality you can start to design its menu and cover – keep it simple.

How many items should I have on a menu?

There is no golden rule. Customers, demographics and cuisine all help to determine the number of dishes you list. But here are a few pointers:
  • There is a difference between variety and quantity: it’s better to have variety rather than a list as long as your arm. It ensures you appeal to a wider audience.
  • If you want to be recognised as a modern restaurant that serves fresh seasonal food and changes its menu on a regular basis, then keep your menu small (six to eight starters, eight main courses, five desserts and one cheese plate).
  • If you want to attract a broader customer base and need larger menus then increase this number to satisfy the market. BUT remember customers are getting wiser and they’ll know that some of your produce could be frozen.
  • Create a menu size that the your chefs can cope with during your busiest service without quality or presentation being affected. Consistency is paramount for any food business.
 

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