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Are You Making Menu Mistakes?

Menu design can be a powerful tool to influence your customers’ food choices – but do you know how to use it?

Let’s look at this menu from our fictional restaurant, The Happy Squid. While this menu gets the job done – it lists available food options and their prices – there are lots of opportunities to improve.


Concerns with this menu include:

Logo Size: Logo is so large that it distracts from the important element: the food!

Section headers: A lack of larger headers and dividers make the menu seem longer and potentially overwhelming.

Typography: The font is one color, one size, low contrast, and rather small – all in all hard to read and impossible to quickly scan through.

Appetizers: Offer no description of the items to entice customers.

Entrees: Including ingredients can be effective, but this is too much detail, making it sound like a grocery list.

Prices: A long column of dollar signs encourages people to read down the column, often choosing the least expensive option.

Order: Listing items from least expensive to most expensive can make the items at the bottom of the list feel overpriced, even if they’re within range of other items.


So what does the same menu look like with a few small changes?



What works about this menu:

Clear sections: Customers can easily find what they’re looking for – and are nudged to ‘shop’ each section.

Typography: Larger, darker fonts, clear headers, bold item names, and a lighter background all make this an easy-to-read, easy-to-scan menu.

Descriptions: Key ingredients are listed with a few enticing adjectives – and good menu descriptions can increase sales by up to 27%.1

Prices: Dollar signs are dropped and the prices are tucked into the descriptions – studies show that this numeral-only approach means customers spent significantly more money.2

Order: Listing the most expensive items first and not falling into most-to-least order keeps prices in perspective, making other items seem like a good value.3

Emphasis: Using a symbol, box, or another highlight to draw attention to your profitable items.

Marketing: Plug your social presence and hashtag – all those food photos are free marketing.4



Of course, these are just a few simple guidelines that will help for most menus.

Other details like color choices, physical menu production, and menu size all play a role. The most important thing to remember is that your menu isn’t just a list, it’s a tool – so use it!


PS – do those menu items sound enticing? Get the recipes here:

IPA Battered Calamari | Shores of the Mediterranean Calamari | Calamari Ceviche | Calamari Banh Mi | Korean BBQ Calamari Lettuce Wraps | More Calamari Recipes








[1] “Descriptive menu labels… increased sales by 27% and improved attitudes towards the food, attitudes towards the restaurant, and intentions towards repatronage”

[2] “guests given the numeral-only menu spent significantly more than those who received a menu with prices showing a dollar sign [$00.00] or those whose menus had prices written out in words [zero dollars].”

[3] “Viewing the most expensive items first provides an anchor to compare the other, less expensive items, against, making them look like a better value in comparison”

[4] “A half inch plug at the bottom of the page with your Facebook or Twitter handle means all those check-ins and “food porn” posts will get you tagged and mentioned online.”

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