Making Good Menus Great

A restaurant's menu is it's single best marketing tool. It's the one marketing piece every customer sees. Here are 10 common mistakes you'll want to avoid.

No. 10: The price list line up!

Nice neat rows of right hand justified pricing takes the focus off of the menu item and gives your guest the ability to price shop. The best place for the price is at the end of the menu item description. Menu item name first. Description next. Price last. No "$". No bold font.

No. 9: "Homestyle"

If your guests wanted it "homestyle" that's where they would have stayed.

No. 8: No.! No! No!

No sharing. No Checks. No separate checks. Don't turn your menu into a policy and procedures manual for your guests.

No. 7: Percentage Pricing

Goofy pricing strategies make guests wonder what the heck you were thinking when you wrote your menu. Yes know what your food cost is, but know what the market will bare. Prices should have some continuity like ending in 0 (good), or 5 (better) or 9 (best). The retail industry has done a great job of training consumers that everything ends in 9.

No. 6: Clip art crazy

Today's software is not only affordable but it's easy to use. And abuse. Be careful you don't use too many steaming mugs of coffee or dancing cows.

No. 5: Beware of Photos!

The expression "A picture is worth 1000 words" is very true. When using pictures on the menu you are making a real commitment that the food will look exactly like the picture. Every time. Pictures of pre-made desserts and adult beverages are great. They sell more and it is hard to mess up a bottle of beer.

No. 4: "Fried to Perfection"

Today consumers are more conscious about what they eat. At least that's what they say. Descriptive words like gooey, slathered, and dripping lack the market appeal they once had. Time to get a thesaurus.

No. 3: Too much!

Too many pages. Too many choices. Too many pictures. Too many options. Studies show the average consumer spends 107 seconds looking at a menu. In the menu game less is more.

No. 2: "Greasy-Sticky Icky!

Don't let your menus become a "Scratch and Sniff" marketing tool. If a menu looks bad (or smells bad) it is time to pull it from service.

And the number 1 menu mess-up....

No. 1: White-Out or Correcto-Tape price changes!

When ever I see this I can't help but feel the restaurant is near its end.

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  • I was at a place one time and one of the prices had changed so many times, it was almost another page !!
  • Great list, and very funny. "Fried to Perfection" actually made me laugh-out-loud.
  • Right on the money!
    10 - I do price shop and too often the restaurant makes it too easy for me.
    9 - When I do choose homestyle, it's never like grandma used to make.
    8 - Enough said...
    7 - Seems like shady practice.
    6 - Too much art is not good and I'm an artist! Just give me the food!
    5 - Chinese restaurants seem to do this often and it rarely looks like the meal.
    4 - Enough said...
    3 - Have you ever been to The Cheescake Factory - they give you a menu the size of the Old Testament. Really? Seriously? Who has that kind of time? Besides, isn't that expensive to manage, train, stock, inventory and provide enough menu items to start 3 more chain concepts off of your superfluous items?
    2 - Besides bad service, nothing is more annoying when getting a first impression. Tip: Restaurants should provide mini-antibacterial wipes for customers when they FIRST enter.
    1 - Simply tacky. If people would realize that EVERYTHING you do is the marketing (menus, checks, acknowledgements, tonality, how you poor the drinks....), then you would be more successful/profitable. Your customers may not voice their opinions all of the time, but they do care about the details more and more.
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