Standing outside your restaurant, or browsing your establishment online, your food menu can be a make-or-break moment for diners when they’re figuring out if your dishes are worth their money and time.
A well-described menu not only wins customers over, but also helps to set your restaurant apart. This makes your offerings unique and justifies its price point. Good descriptions are also quick to understand – so, instead of feeling stuck or confused, your customers have time to browse your other dishes and this increases the chance of them ordering more.
Here’s how you can leverage on the exciting opportunity of designing your food menu and boost your business.
Menu layout — get some menu inspiration!
Before a potential guest even sets foot into your restaurant, chances are that they would have already searched for your menu online. Hence, the layout of your menu is one of the first visual impacts you can have on your guest to win them over.
For most Western restaurants, the menu is broken down into these main categories:
However, depending on the theme of your restaurant, your menu should reflect the flow of progression of the meal. For example, sharing plates has become very trendy in recent years, and you can use them as appetisers in your menu if it fits the theme.
You can also get creative with how you want to present the menu – some restaurants use blackboards, clipboards or a mounted frame to create a bigger ‘wow’ factor, or to match a certain theme for your restaurant. While large blackboards are not as common in Singapore as it takes a lot of creativity and time to decorate the boards, small blackboards are occasionally used to highlight the Specials of the Day. Many restaurants have also creatively painted their walls black or green to simulate blackboard effects.
Not sure where to start? There’s a plethora of sites that you can check out for some menu inspiration and even to try out layouts on your own. For example, you can head over to Pinterest for a quick view of menus from around the world or use Canva to try out different menu layouts.
How to describe menu items
How should you describe the food in your menu?
1. Ensure your dishes are described in the correct order
While there are no hard rules, dishes are usually described according to this particular order: the name of the dish, the ingredients, and the “sell copy”, which refers to specific language with a purpose of selling the dish.
An example would be “Asian-touch Creamy Tom Yam Pasta — Penne, Tom Yam paste with cream, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves topped with parsley and chef’s butterfly-cut prawns.”
The position of the ingredients and “sell copy” can be switched up from time to time — decide what suits your restaurant the best.
2. Add value to your ingredients by stating its geographic origin
Adding the geographic origin to a food description is usually more common for meat, where the geographic origin, and even whether the animal was grain-fed or otherwise, can be found in the description of the dish. This often gives diners the perception that it is of higher quality, and further differentiates your dish from its competitors. 3. Add value to your ingredients by stating its geographic origin
Given that there is an increased interest in farm-to-table food, explore further by extending this beyond meats — you can state where fruits, or even eggs are obtained from, especially if they’re from interesting places such as local farms. You can often obtain this information by checking with your vendors and distributors.
3. Help your diners imagine how unusual ingredients taste
There are times where chefs and those in the food industry are extremely familiar with certain ingredients, but yet these ingredients are not as well known to your regular consumers.
Whenever you include such ingredients into your menu description, make sure that the diners are able to get a sense of how the ingredients taste. Without it, diners often tend to err on the side of caution and do not order the dish.
This is even more so with a large group of diners where individuals may worry about social embarrassment when clarifying a particular ingredient. Hence, it’s important to include the category and the taste of the particular ingredient when crafting your food description.
One example is BBQ Shacha Dip — sweet and savoury blend of chilli, brill fish, dried shrimp and BBQ sauce.
This helps your diners identify that the category for BBQ Shacha is a sauce, and that it tastes sweet and savoury.
While there are many other ways to describe menu items, don’t forget one of the most important tips — check for any spelling mistakes that might have slipped past your radar and correct them immediately.
Menu pricing rate
1. Take into account all ingredients cost before calculating your food cost percentage
As every chef worth his salt knows, understanding how to calculate food costs is one of the most important aspects of running a kitchen. The general gauge for food costing lies in the region of about 32% of your retailing price. Make sure to consider all the ingredients that go into making the dish before working out the menu prices.
2. Be consistent about pricing within the same category
It is definitely important to be consistent with your pricing in the menu. Don’t let prices fluctuate too much with dishes in the same category as guests might be turned off by the higher priced item.
However, an exception to this is if you are offering different types of food within a restaurant. For example, it is possible to have a fish main course for $29.90, and a prime rib toma hawk steak for $70. Additionally, it is also common for steak houses to price their beef according to the tier of the meat.
Lastly, refrain from pricing your dishes a strange figure like $28.75. Most restaurants often stick to .50, .90 or .95 for their dishes. Don’t forget – a simple menu is a good menu!