Making dough with Diane: November 2016

Common menu design mistakes
Diane Chiasson
October 26, 2016
Your menu is your best marketing tool. It is an extension of your restaurant’s brand: everything about presentation, design, layout and food and beverage descriptions will contribute to your guest experience, and, if chosen wisely, increase your profit.

Here are eight common restaurant menu design mistakes I constantly see.

1. Brand name not visible
Always place your pizzeria restaurant’s name, address, telephone number and website at the very top of your menu and on the front and back of your menu. You want your guests to tell their family and friends about your establishment. Just remember, in this case, repetition is good.

2. Menu descriptions too long
Describe each item properly. Use short, concise and accurate descriptions of one to two sentences for each item on the menu. Your descriptions have to generate guest interest and sales. Long descriptions will confuse your guests.

It’s also important to know that too many different typefaces or font selections within your menu may scare off customers. Effective typography will communicate your pizzeria’s brand and result in a more legible menu. You want your type to look clean and consistent. As a general rule, try to stick to two different fonts to distinguish the names and descriptions of each menu item. Don’t capitalize everything, and, if you have to, go bold.

3. Failing to proofread
You should always read with careful attention every item, word and block of text on your menu, and ideally you should get another member of your team to check it, too. Use a spellchecker to find misspelled words within your menu, but as you know, it will not catch correctly spelled words in the wrong context. Your restaurant’s menu is your most important sales tool so make sure it’s professionally written.

4. Menu item placement
Proper menu engineering is meant not only to showcase your food and beverage items but also to create something interesting and unique in order to entice your customers. Many restaurants don’t give much thought to where and how items are placed on the menu. Your most popular and profitable items as well as your best signature dishes should be at the top of your menu and at the top of each section. Consider highlighting your most profitable dishes with the highest gross margins. Make sure that you have a minimum of one – but no more than two – items on each page or panel of your menu.

Don’t forget, when designing a menu, it should guide your guests to your best and most profitable dishes with the highest gross margins, showcase your signature items, increase the sale of add-ons and make your restaurant stand out from the competition.

5. Try using boxes and lines
Boxes draw attention! Try to keep everything organized. Put lines and boxes around some items to promote dishes with the highest profit margins, such as specials, add-ons, two-for-one deals, and meal and drinks combos.

6. Too many items or dishes
If you have too many items or dishes on your menu, you will only overwhelm your guests and they will have a difficult time choosing. At the end, it will only confuse them and they will be less likely to return to your restaurant.

7. Too many $$ dollar signs
Don’t make your customers overly aware of how much they are spending. You should display the cost of each item on your menu. Dollar sign overuse communicates that the meal is just about money; it makes it look like your pizzeria is all about money over quality. Your establishment should reflect a tone of warm hospitality rather than business and commerce.

Try to incorporate your prices at the end of each menu item description, using the same size font and leaving two spaces between the end of the description and the price. Don’t use $ symbols on your menu, and by doing this, your pricing will be listed but not overly emphasized.

8. Dirty menus
Don’t use menus covered with food, grease, water stains and tears. Your menu is a reflection of you, your restaurant and your brand. If your menus are old and worn out, your pizzeria will appear to your guests as an old, dirty and sloppy establishment. You should order menus that are durable and determine whether paper menus or laminated menus would be more beneficial. Since a pizzeria  often is both a take-out and a sit-down restaurant, then a mix of both paper and laminated menus is probably appropriate.

Avoid these pitfalls and invest time, attention and resources in your menu. An attractive and effective menu is a prime opportunity to increase your profit.

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping food service, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 25 years by providing innovative and revenue-increasing food service and retail merchandising programs, interior design, branding, menu engineering, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit

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