restaurant menu ideas - what's on your wall?

A menu is more than just a way to communicate important information about your offerings to your customers. Done right, a great menu can be a form of customer connection and branding for your locale.

Global restaurant consultant Aaron Allen puts it in straightforward terms: “A good restaurant menu design is key to any restaurant marketing plan. When you design a menu it should express your eatery’s personality, focuses your overall operations, promotes profitability, establishes your budget, and keeps your brand fresh in your customer’s mind.”

In other words, getting creative with your menu ideas is about customer connection. A good starting point is to make the physical design of your menu memorable. A chalkboard menu over the counter, a spiral notebook look – anything to stand out. Beyond that, it’s the mechanics that will make or break your menu. Whether you are just starting out or looking for something fresh, you can use these five menu ideas to introduce excellence in your restaurant.

#1: Less is More

Customers often already have a difficult time choosing from a wide range of options – and that’s before you add hunger to the mix. As you create your menu, consider offering a few excellent dishes rather than a mountain of mediocre options. Focus on what you do well and what you know customers already love. 

restaurant menu ideas - keep it simple

The bonus is that with fewer menu options you can create a clean, minimalistic look to your menu in the process.

#2: Make it About More Than Pricing

If your goal is to create a menu that exudes experience, you should start by treating it as more than a price list. Place the focus on the food rather than the dollar amount by providing a short description of the dish after the item heading, including the price in the same font and size (this is known as nested pricing). To show some class, exclude the dollar sign, opting for just the price in numbers (plus, a Cornell study found diners spent more when menus omitted dollar signs).

Of course, be sure to maintain consistent pricing so customers don’t have to compare notes from different visits – believe me, the regulars will notice!

restaurant menu ideas - make it about more than pricing

#3: Highlight Weekly or Daily Specials for Return Customers

Return customers will most likely make up most of your business as a restaurant or cafe – so you want to ensure they keep coming back. You may build a loyal following if your customers know they can rely on that $7.99 soup and sandwich special for lunch.

Of course, you can offer a rewards program or punch card so your customers keep coming back to earn (and claim) rewards!

#4: Tell Your Story and Build Your Brand

Your menu items are more than a price list, and your menu on the whole should be about more than the individual items. In telling your story, you should answer the question many customers are sure to have: “Why are you unique?” An introducion to your menu, a connection of individual menu items to your passion or your story, and including staff favorites are all great ideas.

#5: Offer DIY Options

This is a relatively new phenomenon, but customers like to mix and match specials, build their own dishes, add personalization and so on. Be sure your menu allows some room for that. Coffee shops can add some common additions to drinks as suggestions. Delis can offer a build-your-own-sandwich section. Sit down restaurants can suggest pairings. The options are not quite endless.

panera bread

Panera Bread, a successful American Quick-Service Restaurant, offers seasonal and customisable options. Read about their loyalty program here.

5 Menu Ideas for Excellence in Your Restaurant:

Here are the five key ideas for great restaurant menus:

  1. Less is More
  2. Make it about more than pricing
  3. Highlight weekly or daily specials
  4. Tell your story and build your brand
  5. Offer DIY Options

The bottom line is, you should treat your menu as an opportunity to speak to your customers. If you’re not sure where to start, keeping it simple is nearly always a good idea.

Brooklin Nash

Posted by Brooklin Nash

Brooklin Nash writes on the latest technology trends and small business tools. When he's not working, you can find him reading YA dystopian fiction (his guilty pleasure) or cooking eggplant parmesan (his favorite food).