1. Money
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Reader Question: How Do I Write a Restaurant Menu?


Reader Question: How Do I Write a Restaurant Menu?

Correct food cost is important when writing a restaurant menu.

Question: Reader Question: How Do I Write a Restaurant Menu?
Dear Restauranting Guide,

I’ve written out my new restaurant menu, at least the items that I want to include. But as I get ready to make a final draft, I’m not sure I’m doing it right. I guessed at most of the prices, using my competitions menus as a guide. And I’m not sure my menu is big enough – am I offering enough items to keep customers happy? Plus, all my descriptions of food sound boring. I was going to print the menu myself to save money. Now I’m wondering if I should use a professional printing service, instead. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks Robin M.

Answer: Dear Robin,

Writing a new menu from scratch is more than just a list of food and prices, as I’m sure you’ve already discovered. It can be downright daunting. Since you’ve already got your menu items selected, I suggest you start with pricing them correctly. It’s good to know your competitors prices, but they should be used as a food cost guide. Food cost refers to the menu price of a certain dish in comparison to the cost of the food used to prepare that same dish. In other words, how much you pay for food will determine how much you need to charge for it. Generally, food cost should be around 30-35%. This means that if you pay $2.00 for something, you need to charge minimum of $6.68 for that item on your menu. Read more about how to price a restaurant menu.

As far as making your menu larger, I recommend smaller to start. You can always add more items as your business grows. And you can offer daily and nightly specials to add variety, for your regular customers.

To spice up your menu descriptions, give a thorough explanation of a dish. Try using ethnic names if they fit, to add a bit of authentic flair to the menu description. For example, Chicken Marsala sounds better than Chicken Topped with Mushrooms. You can explain what is in the dish (marsala cream sauce with fresh mushrooms) in the description itself. Also incorporating local people or geography into your menu descriptions can add some flair. For example, perhaps your head chef has a specialty dish, add his (or her) name to the menu: Robin’s Cajun Blackened Tuna Steak.

Restaurant menu layouts usually follow a chronological order: appetizers, soups and salads, entrees. Make sure the font you choose is large enough and easy to read. No Edwardian Script, please. Avoid cluttering your menu with clip art. Any photos you choose to include should be in color and of good quality. Read more about designing an effective menu layout.

Even though you’ve already selected your menu items, take a look at how well they can be cross utilized in the kitchen. For example, if you offer smoked salmon, offer it in at least two dishes, to avoid wasting food.

As for using a professional printing company, if you are still unhappy with your final product, than that might be the route to go. However, letting some trusted friends or coworkers read and edit your menu, can help polish it up.

Remember, your restaurant menu is your biggest marketing tool. It is what entices to people to try your restaurant and it’s what keeps them coming back. Once you’ve got your menu finished, show it off. Post it on your website and on your Facebook page. Take pictures of your signature dishes and post them on your social media sites as well.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.