Not unlike your clothes, your menu design says a lot about you. Are you clean and polished and easy to read, or disheveled and a bit confused? Keep the following guidelines in mind when creating your menu and you’ll be sure to make a positive first impression:
1. Graphics. To remain consistent with your brand, use your logo and signature colors. Avoid photos unless they are gorgeous and professionally done. Food photography really is an art, and requires proper lighting to keep lattes and pastries from looking tired and flavorless. Also steer clear of clip art, which can only make your menu look like it’s meant for a junior-high cafeteria. If graphic design is not your forté, consider hiring a graphic designer to produce one that reflects your aesthetic, with a professional polish. If you try to do it yourself, it could take endless hours.
2. Fonts. Simple and highly readable are the rule here. Stay away from cursive, all-bold or all-capitalized text. 12- to 14-point font is a good range for easy reading.
3. Try not to speak from on high. Before you start throwing around coffee-geek terminology or highbrow culinary philosophy, consider your audience. Even if you own a coffee lover’s hangout or an upscale restaurant, your menu descriptions should be understandable to most of the people who walk in the door. A few well-placed terms like “single-origin” or “slow-brazed” will add flavor to your menu without alienating patrons. (And always make sure your staff is trained to answer any questions.)
4. Disclaimers. Menus often include a disclaimer or two at the bottom, in fine print. Yours might be: “gratuity will be added to parties of eight or more” or “two-for-one special not available on to-go orders.” These are fine, and can save your customers any unpleasant surprises. Just try to limit your disclaimers. Your goals should be to please and serve your customers, not to make them feel under-appreciated with lots of no-we-won’t language.
5. Please, do not laminate. If you print menus, invest in clear sleeves to protect them. These allow you to remove menus when they need to be updated or replaced because of wear and tear. Professional laminating (because we agree that do-it-yourself laminating looks cheap and tacky) will quickly get expensive if you have to reprint your menu every six months, which is not uncommon.
6. Proofread like crazy. And have a second or third set of eyes look for typos, too, even your nightly specials. Also ask for brutal honesty. Have people weigh in on whether your menu is easy to read and understand, and if it makes your dishes sound appealing.
Check out the first story in this series: Your Café or Restaurant Menu, Part I: When, Why and How to Update It.