Cover or restaurant menu with fork and knife on each side to illustrate the idea of menu prices and design
Derek Tallent
By: dtallent
Read in 9 minutes

Menu Prices And Menu Design Tips

Your menu prices and menu design are one of the most important parts of running your restaurant. Your menu will define your business and tell customers what kind of restaurant you are. A great menu should make customers excited to try your food, and give them an idea of what to expect when ordering. The best menus are clear and concise, as you don’t want your customers to be overwhelmed and confused. We’re here to give you 10 essential tips on creating a menu and setting menu prices that will make any patron excited to order your dishes.

10 Tips to Price and Design Your Restaurant Menu

1. Don’t Ignore the Design

Designing a menu isn’t just about putting dishes and prices on a piece of paper. The best menus have interesting and engaging artwork, where recipes are expertly placed to catch the attention of patrons. Keep in mind that you want the dishes and their descriptions to be front and center in whichever design you choose.

2. Pay Attention to Pricing

Menu prices are just as important as the design of the menu. This is one of the trickiest tasks to achieve in your menu. The first thing to do is to take inventory of your ingredients. If you don’t have a lot of resources for one dish, consider making it more expensive or at the very least make it a special. That way you won’t run out ingredients as quickly. Here you can find a more detailed guide on how to properly take inventory. You should also keep track of all of your sales. You don’t want to wing your menu prices, so they should change based on the popularity and costs of the dish. That said, calculating your food cost is key and the first step to successfully deciding your menu prices.

Calculate here the food cost in your restaurant

3. Consider Your Resources

For every dish that you put on the menu, you should have an idea of how many people it will take to make, what type of equipment and stations will need to be used, and how much ingredients it will require. Many owners make the mistake of putting a wide variety of dishes that are all made at the same station, which causes delays and poor service for customers. Try and keep the dishes varied in the way they are prepared. Another great tip is to ensure that most of your dishes use the same ingredients. That way, you can make different dishes at the same time using only a few ingredients.

4. Focus on Descriptions

A good description can decide whether a patron will order a dish or not. You want your descriptions to be short enough that a patron can skim them quickly, but you also want the customer’s mouth to be watering after reading it. Try and highlight the tastes and flavors that you expect the dish to have. This will give patrons an idea of what to expect.

5. A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

While descriptions are important, a good picture of your dishes is a great way to give patrons an idea of what they’ll get. Make sure that the photos of the food are labeled to the corresponding dish, are high quality (there are food photographers that will give you great photos for a modest fee), and are prominent in the design of the menu.

6. Portion Control

One reason chain restaurants are so successful is that they have a firm handle on portion control. The cooks in these restaurants know exactly how much of each ingredient to put in every dish. A scallop dish might have a portion control of six scallops per dish, so every shrimp scallop dish that goes out of that kitchen will have the same quantity in it. Make sure your cooks measure everything they are using for every dish. Protein can be weighed, while chopped vegetables and other ingredients can be stored in portion control cups.

7. The “Good, Better, Best” Strategy

One of the most effective menu pricing strategies is the “good, better, best” method. This is how it works: place three varieties of a dish next to each other on your menu. You can also opt for three sizes (small, medium, large) of the same item. Most customers tend to choose the “better” (or mid-range priced, or medium sized) menu items. However, you should still include your “best” items (many customers will select these high-dollar dishes) and the “good” options, since the “better” and “best” dishes won’t look nearly as appealing if a third option didn’t exist.

8. Dish Location

The location of each dish on your menu is very important. Place your best selling or more expensive dishes on the top of their menu category. Don’t place the most expensive dishes right below or above the cheapest options, or they will look even more expensive in comparison.

Discover how to become the loss leader in pricing.

9. No $$$ Signs!

Avoid using currency indicators like dollar signs. And even if this is a common practice in retail stores, don’t use prices that end with “.99”. Round up to the closest whole dollar amount instead. Price columns or “…” price trails will clutter up your menu and draw attention to costs, so avoid them. To sump up, keep your menu as clean and decluttered as possible, drawing attention to the menu items themselves and not the prices.

10. Divide Your Menu Items into 4 Categories

Finally, consider splitting your menu items into four different categories: stars, puzzles, plow horses, and dogs. Each of these categories has specific characteristics and require a certain action to maximize profits:

  • Stars are your high-profit items that sell very well. You should strive to highlight these items using the strategies mentioned above.
  • Puzzles are high-profit items that don’t sell as often as stars. Try to figure out how to market these dishes more effectively.
  • Plow horses are low-cost items that don’t really turn much of a profit. However, because they sell well, you should keep them on your menu.
  • Dogs are both low profit and low sales. Sell whatever you have left and take them off your menu entirely.

Performing a menu audit can help you see what items in your menu are really working (and should be the stars of your menu) and which ones you should take off. Learn here how to do a menu audit.


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