If you're not already sitting down, you might want to before reading the following information. The following is real: there are restaurants and cafes in 2016 using clip art in their menus.
Okay, as a restaurateur you may know that a well presented menu is important. The importance is beyond just being professional and neat though. The way in which your menu is designed, presented and what's on it can often be just as important the food you're preparing in determining what your customer orders.
With the rising popularity of third party review sites, more and more customers are exposed to your menu and making purchase decisions long before they see your illustrious fit-out or state-of-the-art website. A well designed, well thought out menu could be the difference between a busy restaurant humming at dinner hour and the sounds of what was supposed to be background music as the big feature. With this in mind, it makes sense to spend the time to create a menu that appeals to your customers and encourages them to order and return more. To provide some assistance, we've compiled a list of useful tips for creating a new menu from scratch or reviewing your existing menu to help it become more profitable.
Think outside the page
The first thing to consider when creating or redesigning your menu is that it should be an extension of your style and the atmosphere of your restaurant, rather than a business proposal-like document. There are so many alternatives to plain pages, take a look around your space, what textures and themes do you see? You've obviously created this space because you like how it looks, so follow this same instinct when designing the look of your menu. Find fonts that appeal to you for the same reason you picked the couch in the front corner, choose paper that resembles the wallpaper you searched for weeks trying to find, or print your menus on the same timber your benches are made from. By doing this you'll create flow, consistency and a menu that surprises your customers and looks like it belongs.
Minimise to maximise
If you own a busy restaurant and your menu is the size of a short novel, or a small cafe with a menu that looks like a flip book, there's a chance you're overwhelming customers and creating more work for your staff than necessary, resulting in less profit. A recent study from Bournemouth University in England revealed the optimal number of main course choices is ten, along with seven starter and dessert options. For a busy cafe this will be significantly less, due to the time people are spending in your cafe and the space you have to work in.
Current cafe trends are moving towards a maximum of one page that can be quickly scanned, with a small variety of options to suit a range of tastes. Reducing the overall size of your menu means your customers will spend less time deciding what to eat and more time actually eating, which allows for a faster customer turnover and therefore increased revenue opportunity.
Having a smaller menu also reduces risks of food wastage arising from trying to cater to too many options. It also gives your staff the opportunity to refine the smaller number of dishes, providing your diners with an even better, tastier experience.
Is this menu overcrowded? Giving too many choices can slow down the average purchase time per customer.
Keep it fresh
With less options, frequent customers may work their way through your menu much quicker, but this can be used as an opportunity to keep things fresh and provide an incentive for frequent visits. Update your smaller menu regularly with in-season produce and your diners will thank you. Re-create old favourites and build hype around their return to the next menu. This process also allows you to connect with customers about the ingredients, telling them why you've changed the menu and why they will love the new additions. A dynamic menu like this gives your kitchen staff variety and allows them to be creative with the available produce, meaning you will always be at the cutting edge of cafe food trends.
Frequent menu updates
Embarking on the process toward creating a profitable menu is unfortunately not a one hit wonder. For your menu to remain profitable, you will need to scrutinise it regularly. Determine your most profitable, bestselling items and give them extra life, while trimming the fat with dishes that are unpopular. A dish may also be popular but not profitable in which case you will need to consider the value served by that menu item in attracting customers and look at ways to create add on sale opportunities.
There is more to design than just looking pretty
Restaurant menu design is about more than just visual appeal, it's also about influencing the purchases of your customers to buy dishes that make you more money. Here are a few ideas to consider:
Highlighting profitable items - Draw attention to items you want to sell more of with simple highlights or even putting those items on the menu in a box of their own.
Don't show the dollar sign - Studies such as this have shown that removing a dollar sign from your pricing can lead to higher customer spend.
Placement of items - The first and last items in a category are the most likely to sell. Make sure you have your best performers sitting there.
This menu encourages orders of a new menu item by drawing attention to it in design.
We've only touched on a few ways to increase the profitability of your menu or start off on the right foot with a customised menu that provides you with the most revenue opportunities. Ultimately though, a successful menu is an ongoing process and requires a keen eye on your cost of ingredients and margins, and listening to what your staff and your customers have to say.
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