Guide to Building an Effective Restaurant Menu

 Effective Restaurant Menu

A good menu is at the heart of every successful restaurant. It's a showcase for signature dishes and reflects the theme, ambiance, and style of the restaurant.

Depending on the type of dining you offer, menus can be very formal or ultra casual, with daily specials scribbled on a chalkboard. Both approaches get the job done, but you'll want to follow these tips to make the most of your menu:

Match Your Menu Size to Your Kitchen Size

Be sure you understand the link between the restaurant kitchen and the menu. The size and setup of your kitchen will directly impact the size and style of your menu. A smaller kitchen will obviously limit the variety of dishes you can serve.

That doesn't mean you must limit your selection of items. Some tiny kitchens feature more than 100 items on their menus. The secret is to cross-utilize many ingredients and to use only two or three different kitchen stations.

Features to Avoid on a Restaurant Menu

On any restaurant menu, you will want to avoid hard-to-read fonts and overly descriptive language. Both can make customers wonder if they're actually getting what they think they're ordering. Remember that your menu serves as an ambassador for your restaurant. Be sure and put your best foot forward.

How to Price Items on Your Menu 

Understanding your food costs is vital to pricing any restaurant menu. You'll want to make sure you're making enough of a profit with your menu prices while remaining competitive with other restaurants in your area. While some prices will be firm, you should know when to use "market price" on your menu when you're offering highly seasonal items like seafood. 

Special Occasion Menus

Many restaurants create different menus for special occasions. Busy holidays like Mother's Day, Valentine’s Day, and New Year's Eve are great times to consider offering a fixed-price menu. This type of menu limits the number of items available at a given time, making it easier for the kitchen to turn out a large number of meals in a short span. During slow times of the week, a fixed-price menu can also be a great promotion to stimulate business with a two-for-one entree special or a wine-tasting event. These events can get people through the door on traditionally slow nights for restaurants.

The Bottom Line 

Writing a restaurant menu is exciting, like choosing a restaurant name. But be sure to temper your creative side with cost-effective ingredients, proper pricing, and easy-to-understand descriptions of what you're offering. Also, be ready to adapt & make changes as the market dictates.