A restaurant menu card is like a chef’s dish. If it’s not designed in a presentable manner, the customers would jump to ugly conclusions without even tasting the dish.
Your restaurant menu card design plays a crucial role in shaping a customer’s perspective towards your restaurant. In order to make an excellent first impression, you would want your menu card to be something spectacular.
It’s your job to design the menu in such a way that it makes your customers curious about various dishes served at your restaurant. An outstanding menu card is your dish’s one-way ticket to fame.
How is menu psychology used in designing a restaurant menu card?
Menu Engineering is the study of carefully designing food items on the menu based on their individual prices. High margin dishes are highlighted vividly so as to attract as much attention it can. This helps in increasing your restaurant’s profits.
There are people who are specifically devoted to making creative restaurant menu card designs based on certain price metrics and other factors. Global restaurant consultant, Aaron Allen, did a study which suggested that various colors used to describe dishes on the menu had a varied effect on customers. According to his research on the Psychology of Menu Design, he said, green color on menu items meant the food is fresh and organic, orange stimulates appetite, yellow attracts the reader’s attention since it’s a happy color, and so on.
So now, it’s only fair that you work towards building a great restaurant menu card design. Something as minute as colors on the menu could affect the customer’s opinion about your restaurant. Also, remember, this is not a one-time job. With an influx of new cultures and trends, it’s important that you update your menu cards to suit these changes.
How do you design a restaurant menu?
You can be as creative and personal while designing menu cards. Let people know the story behind your restaurant. This will make things more authentic and relatable to your customers.
There are some things you should keep in mind before designing your restaurant menu card.
- Font it well
The text in your menu is your ultimate weapon. Incorporating appealing fonts in your restaurant menu card and highlighting the necessary words will make a huge difference. Italicized words have a different charm than the ones in bold.
A study by Georgia State University on The Psychology of Menu Design, suggests that your menu should be limited to three font types. Anything more than that and your customer’s eyes are on the next page. The items should not be disorganized to look at.
- Use the ‘eye movement’ in your favor
A customer’s eyes follow a particular direction while scanning through the menu card. Their eyes tend to land right in the middle of the menu, then top right corner followed by the top left. You can use it to your advantage and insert high-pricing dishes in this ‘Golden Triangle’ as referred to by menu engineers. Font size needs to be appropriate as well. Nothing too big or small, just visually correct.
- Utilize the space wisely
Putting too much in one page is going to cluster your customer’s mind eventually making it tough for them to decide on one dish. To avoid this confusion, categorize your restaurant menu card into different sections. Use more negative spaces. Balance out the ratio between pictures and text.
- Sensible organization
Organize your menu card in different sections. It should be listed in a particular order, drinks and other beverages to desserts and not vice versa. Give your customers a sufficient amount of time to browse through each of these sections.
- Make it a visual delight
Your restaurant’s menu card should look as appealing as your dishes. Use vivid imagery in your menu as a way of elevating your customer’s hunger. Make sure you use limited yet high-quality pictures that actually resemble your dish and vice versa. Another way is to use themed illustrations based on your restaurant. If your restaurant follows a peculiar idea, go ahead and show it in your menu.
- Spell out your dishes
Customers are your audience and the restaurant menu card, your book. Make sure you engage them with interesting stories about your dishes and the reason why you chose to include them in the menu. Go back to the roots, be informative. Remember, people are always curious to know more about the food they eat.
- Price it right (or don’t!)
A tactic used by many is the removal of prices from dishes entirely or using round figures. People tend to not notice the high-margin dishes if they’re written alphabetically.
- Limit options and hack your way through prices
Each page on your restaurant menu card should have a maximum of seven dishes in each section. Anything more and your customer will end up ordering in a haste. Placing more expensive dishes on top of the page gives the impression that everything else that follows is way cheaper. Hack? Yes.
According to BBC’s article on The secret tricks hidden inside restaurant menus, the simplest of changes like the order of items or the font in your menu card can deeply impact a customer’s choice.
5 unique restaurant menu card ideas
The menu consists of different sections as discussed before. There are quite a few menu card designs for restaurants that you could opt for. Now that the basics are done, let’s move further ahead with some unique menu designs you could incorporate in your restaurant menus.
- Old school
If you are a distant cafe say, near a beach, you could highlight the main dishes or the day’s special on a restaurant menu board (or even a chalk board) to make it interesting. Chalkboard menus can be revised any time of the day, chalking out the offers, discounts and more. Freddo’s ice-cream parlor in Curitiba, Brazil, has a well-executed chalkboard menu concept.
- Themed menu
If you’re a themed cafe, build your menu card around that. This gives a complete experience of what your restaurant is all about. A cafe in Napa, Ninebark, has leaves attached on each page of their menu.
- Cuisine specific
You could design a menu that revolves around the cuisine of your restaurant. For example, the menu of, Saray, a Middle Eastern Restaurant located in Boston, showcases the traditional patterns which were prominent in the architecture there.
- Illustrated menu
Use captivating illustrations in your restaurant menu card. You’d want to make sure not to load the menu with too much imagery. Just enough to increase the overall appeal of it. The Lion’s Share, a restaurant in San Diego, uses distinct illustrations on each page of the menu. It’s based on various tales that have evolved from the idiomatic expression, “The Lion’s Share”.
- Smartly worded
There’s nothing more engaging than a quirky one line at the beginning of your menu. Another way of incorporating humor in your restaurant menu card is by naming your dishes in a witty manner. But make sure that you describe what it is otherwise your humor would go in vain. The bar menu of The Royal Mail, in Singapore, has very interesting cocktail names.
15 fascinating restaurant menu card examples from around the world
- Andrea’s Kitchen, New Delhi, India
This soulful restaurant menu card of Andrea’s Kitchen will most definitely inspire you to pack your bags and go on that long awaited vacation. Their menu is designed in such a way that each of its dishes is based on the famous food served in major cities across the world.
- Niche, Missouri, USA
Focussing heavily on the niche, this restaurant’s menu card knows how to elevate curiosity in the minds of customers. It has a distinct way of letting customers know about the ingredients going into the dishes they are about to taste.
- Mansion Bar and Parlour, London, UKTheir menu is in the form of various editions of a newspaper. The morning edition has breakfast, daily edition for the mains and an evening edition for alcoholic drinks and food. The menu gives a classy vintage appeal attracting quite a few.
- Westbound, Los Angeles, CA
The copper embossed letters in royal blue give the menu of Westbound an elegant look. It contains a lot of white spaces, that’s divided equally between illustrations and text, making the menu neat.
- Rococo, Beirut, Lebanon
This gastro bar in Beirut has a peculiar menu card design. It showcases the 18th Century Rococo paintings with a very formal font. They have added a touch of humor in their menu without disturbing the original paintings.
- Grey Tiger, Toronto, Canada
This menu is nothing short of magic. The owners of this restaurant have put in a lot of thought and effort into creating it. Each page gives out their house drink with almost majestic illustrations and a spell defining that drink.
- Hiding in Plain Sight, Amsterdam, Netherlands
The leather-bound menu of Hiding in Plain Sight perfectly resonates the 20th-century. Following major themes of that era, the illustrations, and language used are in total agreement with the restaurant’s concept.
- 13 wives, Singapore
The menu of this bar in Singapore is rather one of a kind. It’s a black book that contains hand-written fictional stories related to each of the drinks served there.
- Demoiselle by Galvin, Dubai, UAE
Beautifully illustrated with gold foil on the outside and simplified floral design on the inside surely makes this French restaurant’s menu card aesthetically appealing.
- Alamo, Zaragoza, Spain
The menu of this Spanish restaurant is engraved on circular wooden blocks with their logo on top, giving it a very sturdy appearance.
- Chez Panisse, Berkeley, CA
Opened in 1971, this place has a separate Cafe and Restaurant. Their menu changes every day and new menus are designed on special days.
- Oregano’s, Arizona
It’s true that music and food is a heavenly combination. The menu here is placed inside classic record covers. How cool is that!
- Picasso Cafe, Oklahoma
Each section of their menu is beautifully hand painted with vibrant colors.
- The Tokyo City, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
This menu defines simplicity. It’s one of those ‘oddly satisfying’ menus that make you feel good just by looking at it. It does not have any illustrations yet the neatly proportionate text makes it stand out.
- Grandmama’s Cafe, Mumbai, India
Apart from classy Victorian-era interiors, this restaurant’s menu card makes everyone go down the memory lane. Each section of their menu has witty quotes and graphical images sketched on it.
Leading sites for creating distinct menu card designs
Spark Adobe – https://spark.adobe.com/
A part of Spark Adobe’s design suite is the restaurant menu card design creator. You can start by logging into your Adobe account if you have one. Alternatively, you could create a new account from scratch. It is priced according to the purpose. Spark Adobe also has a “Starter Plan” that provides free templates and you can build your menu from scratch. You don’t necessarily need to have a design background because there are plenty of professionally designed menu themes available on their site.
Canva – https://www.canva.com/
Canva is another platform where you can create and design your restaurant menu card. It has hundreds of free templates that you can choose from depending on the kind of restaurant you’re running. It has a wide collection of stock images and templates which aids in designing the menu. Canva comes with an app that can be simply downloaded on iPads and iPhones, giving you the ease of making your restaurant menu card on the go.
PosterMyWall – https://www.postermywall.com/
This is another design site that provides various templates for your restaurant menu design. You can customize your menu and download the template for free. However, there will be a tiny watermark on the bottom left corner of your menu card. You can choose to get it removed by paying a certain amount. The tools are straightforward and extremely easy to use.
Visme – https://www.visme.co/menu-maker/
Multiple templates, easy customization. It’s good if you are looking to put your menu on Social Media or emailing it to someone. To download a high-resolution image, PDF or more, you’d have to upgrade to a newer pack.
Design Wizard – https://app.designwizard.com/#/dashboard/home
Their dashboard consists of different types of restaurant menu card designs from which you can select the one that resonates best with your restaurant. You are required to sign-up and verify your email address and you’ll be good to go.
Signing-up and verifying your email address is a prerequisite when it comes to using the sites mentioned above. After you’ve done that, you can browse from the plethora of menu card designs and choose the one that speaks out your brand. It’s always better to use high-quality images from your own kitchen which gives it an authentic touch.
Why restaurant menu cards should be focused on?
Your restaurant menu card consists of different sections like Appetizers, Alcohol and Beverages, Mains, Desserts and more. Each of these sections can be customized depending on many factors related to your restaurant.
It is imperative that you invest a sufficient amount of money and time in planning your restaurant menu card. If constructed well, a restaurant’s menu reverberates. Today, people check out the menu of a restaurant before visiting it.
With the changing trends and food prices, it becomes important to update the already existing menu of your restaurant. Constantly updating your menu card is going to help you perform better in this challenging food sector.
Given that most restaurants also have an online presence, you might also want to focus on creating digital menus for your restaurant, which shouldn’t be very different from the printed ones. That also can be the deciding factor for your restaurant sales.
Here’s to creating a spectacular restaurant menu card!