You sit down at a restaurant, and your server hands you a menu. You skim the menu, pick what you’d like to order, and hand back the menu. People look at menus everyday, and it is so important for successful establishments to have menus that will catch someone’s eye and be memorable. There’s much more than meets the eye when it comes to menu design. Here are some tips on best practices for designing a restaurant or bar menu.

Organization

Divide your menu into categorical sections. This will make it easier from a usability standpoint, so the consumer can find what they’re looking for quicker and easier. It also creates a visual break and a sense of balance across the design as a whole. An organized menu also illustrates a sense of professionalism and expertise for the brand and/or owner. For instance, a food menu might be broken into categories such as appetizers, main courses, desserts, and beverages. Or, a brewery may categorize their beer selection by types of beers – IPA’s, Wheat Beers, Sours, or Stouts.

Use Photos Sparingly

Think of any high-end restaurant you’ve been to. Oftentimes high-end restaurants do not use many photos, if any at all. High-end restaurants want to leave the food up to its customers’ imaginations. If you want to use food photography in your menu, make sure the photos are extremely high quality. This can become costly, but can be worth it if you get the right photographer to produce great shots. And, this may go without saying, but only use photos of your own menu items. If customers see a stock image of a plate of nachos piled high with tons of toppings, and your restaurant doesn’t actually offer nachos with that many toppings, you may end up with a disappointed customer that may not come back for another meal. Transparency is so crucial in the food industry. Getting good photos of food is a challenge in itself, but can be worth it if that’s what your brand needs.

Consider Illustrations

Illustrations can provide a better sense of the brand/restaurant’s personality. Illustrations are also more universally-understood and often provide a friendly, sophisticated approach.

Keep the Dollar Signs Off

This doesn’t mean you need to keep the numbers / price off, however. Including dollar or currency symbols can clutter your menu, make it look repetitive, and bring down the level of sophistication you may be trying to demonstrate. Placing a dollar symbol in front of every number will make your customers overly aware of how much they are spending.

In addition, try to make your prices more subtle than the rest of the copy. For example, if all of your design is written in a black color font, try to make your prices a slate gray, or a slightly thinner weighted font for lesser emphasis.

Also, do not categorize your menu by price. Mix things up so your customers do not automatically skip past all of your more expensive items. This is a more neutral approach that will encourage your customers to read the menu in its entirety, and order based on their appetite, not their wallet.

Consider Utilizing Boxes or Lines

This goes along with organization. To make sure your customers understand the categorization of your menu, consider grouping each section into its own designated area. Whether you prefer boxes, or lines, these elements will enhance visual breaks and balance.

Typography & Colors

Choosing the right font and color combinations truly sets the tone of your brand as a whole. Select fonts and colors that compliment one another, and work as a team to illustrate your brand tone and voice.

Remember not to use too many colors, and to select colors that will resonate with your target audience as well as your brand. And, depending on the theme or origin of your menu items, also take into consideration cultural context of colors and fonts.

In terms of fonts, a standard rule is to use no more than three different fonts. This will ensure that your menu can have variety and show hierarchy, while also maintaining a consistent look. Too many fonts can become overwhelming and confusing for a customer to process. Try to keep consistency across your menu items. For instance, utilize an all-caps font for your main categories, use a bold title case for your specific menu items, and a regular or regular italic for the descriptions.