What's on the menu?

It's a Friday and I'm sat down the local, the Rathskeller Bar, with a pint of Guinness doing my third favourite thing in the world. No, it's not what you were thinking! One of my favourite things is looking at the design of menus. The menu is one of the first things you will interact with when you go out for a meal or a drink, and yet it's one of the main things that so many places I've visited get wrong. So before I reach the bottom of this pint, I will outline 5 things you can do to improve your menu design.

Minimalist or Impact


A successful menu is one that clearly communicates with your customers. However it may not be communicating everything you need it to, as not only do you have to communicate the meal and price, but you are also communicating your brands image at the same time. This atmosphere is everything a good venue will cultivate throughout the decor, the staff and the location but you may be missing it in one of the most important areas, the menu.

By choosing the style that suits the desired perception and target market of your venue, you will immediately win customers over. A minimal menu will use little to no imagery and sparse typography and will present the perception of a high quality venue. A more impactful, busy design with striking images or bold typography can communicate a larger variety of feelings depending on the individual design, but can really make customers buy into your theme if it's more quirky or niche.

Pull out the brand


What makes people visit your place over Dave's next door? I heard he does really good fish and chips. Why am I coming to you instead of Dave's? Communicating your uniqueness, and your brand, is vital and especially important on the menu. Maybe you're the only Mediterranean themed restaurant in Norfolk. Maybe you do THE best gluten-free food in Cambridge. Making sure this comes across in the menu, both through the items and the design will keep people talking about you, and coming back for more.


Having the wrong layout on the menu is a potential pitfall. A good design may be as simple as a descending order of dishes, or you may want a more complex sheet of different options, sides and themed dishes in a striking but understandable spread. Making sure this pops out of the page and is still easy to read is essential.

Tone of voice


Please choose the correct greeting from the below:

  • May I take your order sir?
  • Yallright Steve, the usual is it?

The answer is neither is better than the other, but one probably will be at your individual venue. This rule is the same for your menu. The menu descriptions need to reflect the atmosphere of your venue while encouraging people to buy the items on the menu with mouth watering descriptions. 


Not many people consider the material their menu needs to be displayed on. Do you want a thick book that will last for centuries, or a funky hand-drawn chalkboard on the wall? Letterpress printed textured paper, or something ran off the inkjet out back? There is no one right answer, it depends on all the elements I mentioned above including brand, tone of voice and audience. It will also depend on your budget and day-to-day logistical needs, but the main thing is making sure the menu is immaculate at all times. A menu that will last a year is no good if it's utterly battered 7 months in. Beautiful paper is no good if you have a limited budget and the customers use them as coasters! Picking the best option for you is essential.

BONUS ROUND: Special Specials


I have a drop of Guinness left so here's one more! Customers love specials. Whether a nice change from the usual menu, or the freshest product you have straight off a boat, your specials should stand out from the other items and make customers always excited to come back for more. This can designed as a separate menu entirely or a internal feature in your venue, or many other things.

As specials are changed often make sure you get the system that works best for your setup, but still look fantastic (and consistent) every time.

If you are interested in any of the issues discussed or work shown, and would like to speak to me, please feel free to get in touch. You can comment below, email luke@blackwolfcreative.com or even give me a call on 07742 990524.