Restaurant menu design is… well, the process of creating a design for the menu at a restaurant. Pretty straightforward, right?
Yes and no.
While the concept is simple, the execution can be a different story.
Here’s a breakdown of what restaurant menu design is, what it entails, how to do it well, and what the payoff of a good menu can be.
Table of Contents
- How Effective is Good Restaurant Menu Design?
- Types of Restaurant Menu Designs
- What To Consider When Designing Restaurant Menu
- What Are the Benefits of Good Restaurant Menu Design?
- Who Should Hire a Restaurant Menu Designer?
- How Much Do Restaurant Menu Designs Cost?
- How to Pick Restaurant Menu Designer for Your Business
- Frequently Asked Questions
How Effective is Good Restaurant Menu Design?
A good restaurant menu design can be incredibly effective at gaining brand recognition and loyalty and keeping guests coming back for more.
A clean, organized menu that jives with your restaurant’s theme and the food you serve can be the difference between a one-time guest and a regular.
Types of Restaurant Menu Designs
Though there is a seemingly endless list of types of menus, we’re going to focus on the five main types of menu design: static, à la carte, cycle, fixed, and du jour menus.
The most popular style of menu today, the static menu is the large menu that a restaurant offers year-round. This type of menu is broken up into different sections like appetizers, sandwiches, entrees, and desserts.
A static menu can also include smaller sections for some of the other types of menus like à la carte options and du jour offerings.
A static menu can be made from paper or cardboard, can be featured on a digital display board, and can even be found online via a QR code.
À La Carte Menu
An à la carte menu lists items that are sold individually.
All of the items on an à la carte menu are understood to be standalone items. These types of menus can be singular items or singular dishes, desserts, etc.
A cycle menu is a menu that a restaurant cycles through a specific time period (seasonally, certain days of the week, etc.) They can be offered exclusively on certain days or offered alongside a static menu, depending on the situation.
For instance, if a restaurant crafts their menu around seasonally available items, they would use a specific cycle menu for that period of time and then change to a new cycle menu as the season changes. If a restaurant offers a special brunch menu only on weekends, they will be using a cycle menu.
Cycle menus are set for a longer duration than du jour menus, which we’ll get into later.
Fixed Menu (Prix Fixe Menu)
A fixed menu, often referred to as a “prix fixe menu,” is a pre-set menu that usually includes a few courses at a set price.
While there could be a few options, a fixed menu generally includes one soup or salad, appetizer, main course, and dessert that they serve for a single set price.
Prix fixe menus are often special occasion menus since they’re usually offered on holidays like Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day.
Du Jour Menu
Du jour literally translates to “of the day,” so a du jour menu is a list of offerings that are only available that day.
Items like “soup of the day” and “catch of the day” are some common examples of things you may find on a du jour menu, while many du jour menus include a full list of appetizers, main courses, and desserts of the day.
What To Consider When Designing Restaurant Menu
When you’re plotting your menu, consider the following:
First and foremost, think about what’s going to be on the menu.
How many items do you need to put on your menu? What style of food are you serving? What’s the vibe of your restaurant?
All of these things will directly influence the rest of your menu design, so make sure you solidify contents and branding first.
A large part of marketing is psychology and menu design is no different.
When you’re figuring out the layout of your menu, take eye scanning patterns into consideration.
The most recent research into this shows that a person scans a menu like they read a book, so the top left corner is where they will start. Put your best items in the top left corner so it’s the first thing that your customers see.
Font is everything. Make sure your typography is legible, easy to read, and goes with the theme of your restaurant.
Have a western-themed barbeque joint? Consider a country-style font. Own a super sleek, modern brewery? Use a simple, blocky font.
While it may be tempting to use a simple white or offwhite page with a black font, consider branching out and trying something brighter. If that seems like too much, consider adding small touches of color or even a few simple illustrations to keep things interesting.
Division of Sections
Some use boxes, some use just a simple large title above each section.
Whatever you do, lay out your sections in a way that makes sense. Think about the order of operations here; people usually start with appetizers, move on to entrees, and end with dessert.
Use White Space
Nobody wants to read a novel of a menu. It can get overwhelming and confusing, causing choosing an item to become a hassle instead of an enjoyable experience.
White space gives your customers clarity. Use it liberally.
Bonus: Consider Skipping Currency
Consider allowing the dollar sign to be inferred.
Studies have shown that people are more likely to spend more if there are no currency rates listed on the menu. The burger isn’t twelve dollars, it’s just… 12.
What Are the Benefits of Good Restaurant Menu Design?
Trust us, it’s worth it.
Here are some benefits of good restaurant menu design.
Solidify Brand Image
If you’re a restaurant, then food is your thing. And the menu is your customers’ introduction to the food.
A clean menu design that fits in with the theme and vibe of your restaurant lets customers know exactly who you are and makes them more likely to suggest your restaurant to friends.
A well-designed, organized menu draws customers’ eyes to more expensive items and makes everything easier to understand.
If the menu items are eye-catching, customers are more likely to order more, meaning more money for your business.
Create a Better Experience for Customers
Customers go to a restaurant not just for a meal, but for an experience.
A good menu means a better experience which means more customers.
Stand Out From the Competition
There are so many restaurants out there it can be hard to make your mark.
A great menu can be just the thing to make your business stand out from the crowd.
Who Should Hire a Restaurant Menu Designer?
In a perfect world, everyone who ever opens a restaurant would hire a menu designer right from the start to set their business up for success. But opening a restaurant is expensive and many first-time restaurant owners need to spend their money elsewhere.
While it’s a reasonable place to cut corners and use a free or cheap online template to DIY the situation, if you have the money, it’s worth it to hire a restaurant menu designer.
The long-term payoff in exchange for a one-time upfront payment makes hiring a restaurant menu designer a worthy investment.
How Much Do Restaurant Menu Designs Cost?
Restaurant menu designs cost anywhere from free to $2,500, depending on the route you choose to take.
There are free templates available that restaurants can just plug their dishes into.
Otherwise, you can hire a freelancer who charges either hourly or using a set price model based on how many pages there are.
You can also use a site to host a menu design competition and get a large variety of designs to choose from.
How to Pick Restaurant Menu Designer for Your Business
To pick a restaurant menu designer for your business, you need to first figure out your budget.
Once you have that in mind, check out freelancer marketplace sites like Fiverr or Upwork, or more highly-vetted sites like Toptal if you have it in your budget. Additionally, we've tested many unlimited graphic design services so you can start with our suggestions.
Check out the profiles and information on each designer to see if they specialize in menu design for your type of restaurant and see if they have a portfolio of past menu designs so you can get a feel for what their style is like.
If you want to go a different route, you can also choose an unlimited graphic design service like Kimp or Graphically that can provide you with multiple iterations of menu designs as well as unlimited requests for any other graphic design needs you may have in the future.
You can even choose a site where you can host a design competition and choose your favorite menu design from a multitude of options.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I find a restaurant menu designer?
You can find a restaurant menu designer on freelance marketplace sites like Fiverr or Upwork or an unlimited graphic design service like Kimp.
What is the importance of good restaurant menu design?
A good restaurant menu design is an important part of a restaurant that can drive up revenue, build brand awareness, and develop customer loyalty.
What are the main types of restaurant menu designs?
The main types of restaurant menu designs are static, cycle, à la carte, du jour, and fixed or prix fixe.
How do you style a restaurant menu?
To style a restaurant menu, consider your offerings, then use scanning patterns, typography, color, sectioning, and white space to create a menu that reflects what your restaurant is all about.