Canadian Pizza Magazine

Eight steps to making a menu that sells

Diane Chiasson   

Features Business and Operations Marketing

Eight steps to making a menu that sells

For the past 25 years I have worked as a consultant for hundreds of restaurants, cafeterias, grocery stores, and several other types of foodservice operations. I have learned that a well-written and well-designed menu is your most powerful merchandising and marketing tool.


For the past 25 years I have worked as a consultant for hundreds of restaurants, cafeterias, grocery stores, and several other types of foodservice operations. I have learned that a well-written and well-designed menu is your most powerful merchandising and marketing tool.

Each and every single one of your customers who walks through your door or checks out your website will read your menu. What you put on your menu and how you convey your food is absolutely crucial. Here are eight key steps to creating a menu that will get your customers to buy what you want them to:

1. Use colours to enhance your menu
The colours you select for your printed menus and menu boards should be warm and inviting, and match the branding of your operation. They should also complement your interior design, quality of food and price range. Use a maximum of three colours, and make sure the colours are contrasting enough to make your menu stand out. Your menu boards need to be properly lit as well.


Some operations may benefit from colour coding, as it would help customers in a hurry make quick decisions. More than any other aspect of the menu, colour has a definite psychological effect that stimulates the appetite and calls attention to particular foods. For example, a green background sells vegetarian pizzas, while a red background sells meat pizzas.

2. Create easy-to-read menus
Legibility is a top priority in designing your menu. Stick to basic fonts like Arial, Helvetica and Times New Roman with a minimum font size of 12 points for the printed version. As the average age of the population increases, larger, simpler fonts are recommended. People buy more if they can easily read the choices.

Although many people believe using all capital letters in their menus attracts attention, the truth of the matter is that it’s a lot harder on the eyes. Your menu should be written in mostly lower case. You can attract the customer’s eye by increasing the size of the words and prices of your most profitable items. Borders and shaded boxes are also a proven way to attract attention to a particularly profitable item. Use no more than three distinct font styles and incorporate the three colours you chose to reflect your store brand. When choosing different fonts, you could pair a serif and a sans serif for contrast and style. Headlines, headings and titles are sans serif and usually bolded. Choose simple and legible fonts that reflect the style of the restaurant and fit in well with your branding. For example, if you run a sleek and modern restaurant, don’t use the old-fashioned Times New Roman font.
3. First & last lines sell the most
Research has shown that customers tend to order the first and last items on a menu the most, so place your most profitable product as the first item listed on your menu and your second most valued as the last. Everything in between can be in any order.

4. Use icons to highlight healthy foods
A recent survey of menu trends showed that locally grown and organic produce ranked right at the top for what consumers look for in a menu. Several foodservice operations are now following this trend by offering beneficial food options for today’s health-conscious society. Bring your wholesome dishes to the forefront. Use icons to highlight your healthy food options. Choose one symbol to indicate all your vegetarian choices and another symbol to indicate low-fat items.

5. Include product origins in menu descriptions
Since consumers are looking for organic and local foods, you should also highlight where your goods come from and how they’re grown or made. Putting this information in your menu adds a lot of value to your dish. For example, a menu description for a pizza could read: Hand-tossed organic wheat flour crust, with homemade sauce made from locally grown tomatoes, topped with fresh mozzarella from XYZ Dairy.

6. Make it user-friendly
Ensure that your menu is user-friendly. You end up confusing your customers if you offer too many items and choices. People are often in a rush and do not have the time or the patience to dissect your menu line by line.

Offer meal combinations. They’re a good way to upsell extra items and help your customers make quick decisions. Sell your pizza with a familysized salad, garlic bread and chicken wings. Or include drinks and a dessert for a special deal.

Keep your menu descriptions short and sweet, and avoid naming your signature pizzas with words that people can’t pronounce. Customers don’t want to embarrass themselves when ordering their meals.

7. Include a kids’ menu
For many families with children, the number one draw to a restaurant is whether or not the eatery offers a kids’ menu. Many parents don’t feel it’s worthwhile to pay full price for a dish that their child might not even take a single bite of.

Children usually prefer plain cheese or just pepperoni pizza, while parents are interested in trying more sophisticated toppings, so allowing a child to order his/her own personal pizza is a big draw.

Offer a kid’s menu that allows children to build their own pizzas with healthy toppings like broccoli or chicken. Make sure the pizza is sliced into small wedges so it’s easy for tiny hands to handle. Always include a drink and a dessert or treat with the meal.

8. Train your staff
A good menu is most effective when combined with well-trained and knowledgeable staff. Make sure your staff knows your menu inside and out, and gets the opportunity to taste everything so they can make recommendations to undecided customers. Your staff should also be able to answer any  questions a customer might have about the menu.

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