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Designing a Restaurant Menu

Updated on February 20, 2013
While designing a restaurant menu, you have to position your items according to the pricing, popular and in-house special items must be on the spot.
While designing a restaurant menu, you have to position your items according to the pricing, popular and in-house special items must be on the spot. | Source

My brother operates a restaurant in Kathmandu. As a shareholder, I have not only helped him conceive a menu for the restaurant but also designed menus. Here, I share my experience of designing a restaurant menu as a restaurateur and a designer.

Menu is not just a printed sales pitch, it is the actual face of the restaurant. Menu design determines what customers will order and how much they will spend. Whether you are an owner or a designer, you have to be careful about the menu because well-designed menu is a wonderful marketing tool. Designing a restaurant menu is as important as the design, décor and the ambiance of a restaurant.

Menu can be of different sizes, such as single page format, double page fold format and multi-page format. Some restaurants also prefer to use multiple menus for different categories than cluttering everything in a multi-page menu. Your menu should include cool graphics, attractive fonts, eye-catching colors, and mouth-watering dishes.

Designing a restaurant menu depends on the type of the restaurant.
Designing a restaurant menu depends on the type of the restaurant. | Source

  • Borders, boxes, shading, words such as “Today’s Special” or “New” will draw your customers’ attention.
  • In most cases, 60 percent of the sales in the restaurants come from 20 percent of the food items.
  • Try to feature the items with low production costs but higher profit.
  • You can also omit the item that takes long time to produce but has few sales.
  • Menu is like a TV commercial or print advertisement. The product will be bought only when people spot it.
  • Train your staffs to encourage the customers to order the items with high margins.

Designing a Restaurant Menu – For Restaurant Owners

Menu is more than food items printed in a glossy paper. Layout and graphics of the menu can influence and attract the customers. Before you design a restaurant menu, you should do a research and look for the competition, such as pricing, food items, and designs. Focus your research on:

Who is your target costumer?

How different is your restaurant from the rest?

What is your punch line?

What kind of food you will be serving?

After you recognize the margins between selling price and production cost, categorize and arrange the items in different sections. As a rule of the thumb, starter will be always be followed by main course and then dessert. Highlight special dish, so that it catches customers’ eyes. Multi-page menu could confuse the customers, so don’t try to make your menu too long.

You may use interesting names for the food items because it gives some unique feature to your menu. You can explain what is included in the item. When you associate your items with geography and history, customers could be interested to try that dish. If your restaurant serves foreign food, your customers may find difficult to pronounce the items, so it is good to number the entries.

Design and the décor of the restaurant  should be reflected in your menu design.
Design and the décor of the restaurant should be reflected in your menu design. | Source
  • Your menu can have one or two columns but do not use multiple columns, because too many columns will clutter your menu.
  • Menu size, printing quality, layout, graphic designs, illustrations, texture, and paper quality are important part of the menu design.
  • It is usually good to feature the most popular item on the top of the menu. You can feature the most expensive item on the middle. You can also alternate your items with low priced food.
  • Most people do not read a menu thoroughly but scan it randomly. So, it is necessary to place the item on the right spot.

Designing a Restaurant Menu – For Designers

Before you begin to design a restaurant menu, you have to reflect on the expectations of your customer. When you know what kind of menu your client wants, you can think about what you are charging for your design. You also have to check the competition, look at the menus of other similar restaurants. If it is possible, visit the restaurant, talk to the owners, staffs, even customers.

Designing a restaurant menu depends on the type of the restaurant and its tagline. The layout, pictures and graphics must be according to the pricing, restaurant theme, and food. The graphics in the menu should match design and the decor of the restaurant. You should use color that compliments to the theme color of the restaurant, banner, poster and even business card. You may opt for vivid color, or dim and dark color, but the color you choose for your menu should reflect the restaurant.

Categorization is very important if you are designing a large menu. You have to categorize food in a sequence, such as breakfast, appetizer, lunch, dinner, beverage etc. Your sub headings must be bigger than the item entries. Differentiate the sections with different color, fonts, boldface, and shading. If you have a multi-page menu, try to feature house specialties and expensive items in the beginning.

Use pictures of the items but don’t clutter your menu. Do not ever use widely used clip arts and pictures.
Use pictures of the items but don’t clutter your menu. Do not ever use widely used clip arts and pictures. | Source

Things to Remember While Designing a Restaurant Menu

  1. Page size and layout affects the overall look of the menu and direct the customers to order the items.
  2. Whether you are doing single page, double page or multi-page menu, you must be careful about text color, font type, background color, vector arts, illustrations and images.
  3. You have to position your items according to the pricing. The items must be arranged in a sequence, with popular and house special items on the spot.
  4. Item shading and highlight will direct the customers to the items with high profit margins. Normally, 20-25 percent shading and highlight is appropriate.
  5. Use complimentary color. Try to match the restaurant theme color, design and décor in the menu design.
  6. Use easy to read fonts, and avoid hard to read decorative fonts. Don’t use too many fonts.
  7. Use pictures of the items but don’t clutter your menu. Do not ever use widely used clip arts and pictures.
  8. If it is a single page menu, use boxes and borders, and boldface the categories. If it is a multi-page menu, place starters first and end with dessert. Normally beverages and drinks appear on the last page.

Programs for Designing a Restaurant Menu


In Design, Illustrator and Photoshop are wonderful designing programs from Adobe Systems Inc. You can design your menu in one of these programs. You can manipulate images, create vector-based arts and interesting patterns, design unique layout and graphics from Adobe’s designing programs. Good thing about Adobe’s designing programs is you can export your working file to another program.

Macromedia FreeHand

Macromedia FreeHand is similar to Adobe Illustrator that allows you to create vector-based arts, illustrations and graphics. Freehand is a wonderful program for graphic design, you can use custom shapes to design graphics or draw freely. You can also import working file from Freehand to Photoshop or Illustrator.

Microsoft Word

If you know nothing about designing software, but want to design a restaurant menu, don’t worry, you can also design a menu on Microsoft Word. Find a Microsoft Word menu template and simply insert your text. You can also insert pictures, set page layout, add color to the text or background, use borders and shading and create your own menu template.

Menu is like a TV commercial or print advertisement. The product will be bought only when people spot it.
Menu is like a TV commercial or print advertisement. The product will be bought only when people spot it. | Source

What is more important in the restaurant?

See results

Free Menu Templates


Serif is a wonderful website for designers. It not only offers many useful and free programs, but also professionally designed templates for different kinds of designs, including restaurant menu. You can download useful software and templates, after you create a free account. You need to install PagePlus on your computer to work on these templates. PagePlus Starter Edition is free, and you can easily download from the site.

New Evolutions

New Evolutions offers free restaurant templates for designing a restaurant menu. Click the templates you want, it will be downloaded in a zip folder. You need Macromedia FreeHand skills to work with these templates. If you don’t know how to work with FreeHand, you can open the templates in Adobe Illustrator and then edit. You can also convert it to Photoshop.

Images for Designing a Restaurant Menu

When you are designing a restaurant menu, you need pictures and illustrations. Normally, it is not possible to create all the illustrations or take all the pictures you want for your menu. You can download royalty free pictures for your menu on Restaurant Menu Stock Photos.


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    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      7 years ago from Nepal

      Hello Angel,

      I'm sorry I did not notice your comment earlier. I apologize.

      Thanks for coming back to comment.

      I appreciate your comment.

      Thank you very much for your Easter wishes!

    • Angelme566 profile image


      7 years ago

      Rereading this hope to get some tips and hope sometime i can apply these things if i will be opening a restaurant business.

      Happy Easter !

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      7 years ago from Nepal

      @Audra, thanks for complimenting my works. Even though English is our second language we use English in our daily work.

      @Audrey, thank you very much

      @Sunshine, that's what I want. LOL

      @Peggy, in a menu, correcting typo is as important as color and designs. Thanks for highlighting important point. I'm very grateful to for always appreciating my work.

      @Rebecca, these are my photographs and designs. Thanks for being here.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      7 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      You did those? Gosh, those menus look fantastic!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Vinaya,

      With your expertise in using Photoshop, I am sure your brother's restaurant with you as a shareholder, has one of the best menus out there! A good menu can help make or break a restaurant. Little things like checking for typos are also important since, as you said, a menu reflects the "face" of the restaurant. This is great advice including the free applications for people wishing to make their own menus. Up, useful and interesting votes. Will also share.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      7 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Well done Vinaya! I've seen many boring menus that didn't compliment the food, restaurant and atmosphere...they should have hired you! :)

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      7 years ago from California

      Wow Vinaya--you are so talented! This is beautiful!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Your "Design and Decor" are NOT cluttered, but beautiful and in English! I really, really liked this! I like the part when you said use a complimentary color"! That caught my eye because Micah said the same thing when I was doing one of my pages in my fb numbers project. It was nice to see you and read this...great job!!!

    • Angelme566 profile image


      7 years ago

      The restaurant owner speaks ! We got to listen to this write ups because this is the thing the applied on their restaurant.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      7 years ago from Nepal



      Thank you very much for appreciating my work.

      Have a nice day.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      7 years ago from Dubai

      Interesting hub and great tips. Never thought that so much thought and effort is behind a menu card. Will remember this next time I see a menu card. Voted up.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      This is so handy for those thinking of being in the food business! Thanks Vinaya!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      7 years ago from Nepal





      unknown spy


      I want to write on the topics that interests me, and that is known to me otherwise my writing will be too shallow. Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate your inputs.


    • livingsta profile image


      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Interesting hub Vinaya! Sure will be of great help for people who are into designing menus! Votes up and sharing!

    • unknown spy profile image

      Life Under Construction 

      7 years ago from Neverland

      you are a natural expert Vinaya.

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 

      7 years ago from Chennai, India

      An informative & engaging hub! Today I have completed Photoshop course and will proceed to Illustrator in next week. Here you spoke like an expert in graphics design. Way to go!

      Thanks for SHARING. Useful, Awesome & Interesting. Voted up, pinned & shared

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      8 years ago

      This is great information for those who are starting a new business or redoing their menu. Great suggestions and ideas that will work. Voted up!

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 

      8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Wow! Very interesting topic and you add some cool ideas like renaming dishes with descriptive names to catch the customer's eye.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      8 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Awesome ideas here on designing menus and you certainly know how to write about your experiences, what better way to do it.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      8 years ago from Nepal



      Thank you very much for your generous comment.

      Have a wonderful weekend.

    • Angelme566 profile image


      8 years ago

      The restaurant owner speaks..

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      8 years ago from New York

      That's because you don't have any Vinaya ;)

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile imageAUTHOR

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      8 years ago from Nepal

      @Christy, I love to write on the topics I have hand experience. Thanks for being here.

      @Billy, I'm glad that you read about this topic for the first time from me.

      @Frank, thanks for appreciating my work.

      @Rosemary, I hope people will benefit from my tips. Thanks for your comment.

      @Mhatter, thanks for commenting.

      @Faith, I'm jack of all trades and master of none. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      @Ruchira, perhaps I should do more research and add more resource sites. Thanks for being here.

      @tillsontitan, you are an amazing supporter, you never see my faults. Thanks for being a friend and reader.

      @Lovedoc, thanks for your comment.

      @always exploring, thanks for always appreciating my works.

      @kulewriter, thanks for sharing the anecdote. Cheers

    • kulewriter profile image

      Ronald Joseph Kule 

      8 years ago from Florida

      Doing research for the forthcoming biography of the late Chef Tell Erhardt, who was America's most pioneering TV celebrity chef, I discovered this hilarious Chef Tell quote:

      "Never have more items on your menu than the number of chairs you have in your restaurant. That way they know you cannot cook a few things well."

      The fascinating life story of Chef Tell will be released later in 2013, forewords by Emmy-winners, Regis Philbin and Chef Walter Staib.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      8 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Very useful info. Is there nothing you can't do? Hee...Awesome!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Useful information & well-written. You did a great job here. Voted up awesome.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      8 years ago from New York

      You're amazing! No matter what subject you tackle you do it so well...and your photos, always great and meaningful to your hub. I bet there's people out there who will be using this to design their next menu! I can't wait to see what you come up with next....

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

    • Ruchira profile image


      8 years ago from United States

      Great tips, vinaya.

      I liked how you gave the software and the template details. For a novice, that is very important.

      voted up as interesting and useful

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      8 years ago from southern USA

      You are one multi-talented man to say the least, as well as a good brother to help out! Excellent subject for a hub. This is a great asset to any who own restaurants for sure. Love your photos too, and now I am hungry.

      Excellent write. Voted up ++++ and sharing

      God bless, Faith Reaper

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. great and unique topic.

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 

      8 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      Another great hub and a unique one too, not seen anything on this topic before. Well set out and useful tips and info which would suit other places of business beside restaurants.

      Great job and voting UP

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      8 years ago from Shelton

      Vin you have written another good idea for a hub :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      8 years ago from Olympia, WA

      What a great hub! I have never read a hub on this topic. You did a great job of organizing the information that any restaurant owner would benefit by reading.

    • Christy Kirwan profile image

      Christy Kirwan 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Awesome tips! It's great that you've been able to use your experience with your brother's restaurant to advise others.


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