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Your menu is one of the most effective tools you have at your disposal when it comes to running a successful and sustainable restaurant. Pricing issues, confusing layouts, and menus with too many (or too few) items can lead to frustration for your guests as soon as they sit down. Any of these issues can wreak havoc on your ability to create market-leading check averages. Below I’ve included a few menu pricing & design tips and tricks that I’ve accumulated over the years.

Eliminate Ambiguity

Have a clear pricing separation between appetizers and main courses. Guests make significant assumptions about your dishes based on price alone. If all of your appetizers are $12-$16 and your mains are $12-20, re-think where your dishes fit. You have to strike a balance between price and portion.

Pro-tip: Examine your appetizer offerings closely. Include some to enjoy individually as well as some that are meant to share. Make sure you note which are which. This make ordering much easier for groups.

Highlight the Details

These days, it seems like everyone has a food allergy or some kind of intolerance to something. Well, everyone likes to act like they do anyways. Go out of your way to mark dishes that cater to specific dietary restrictions (vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc.). This helps direct guests towards dishes that fit their diet without staff involvement.

Pro-tip: You can have fun with this. While dietary restrictions and spice-level are no-brainers, things like the region a dish is from, portion-size,and protein type could all be noted using creative indicators as well.

Form vs. Function

Have you ever sat down at a restaurant with menus the size of a road map? You were probably as annoyed as I was the last time it happened to me. Unique and beautiful menus are great, but they can’t be so unruly that place settings need to be moved just to set them on the table. At that point, they’re taking away from the experience instead of adding to it.

Focus on Photography

Frankly, photography isn’t a fit for every every menu. But, it goes without saying that if you’re going to do it, do it right! Invest in a professional photographer and utilize the images wisely. If you have a unique dish, focus on it. Sometimes a written description just can’t do it justice.

Pro-tip: Be sure to include photos of appetizers and desserts. People eat with their eyes and it’s a lot more difficult for guests to overlook those money makers when they see how delicious they look.

Looking for a great food photographer? Check out Green Frog Photo!

Separate Dessert Menus

Give your kitchen the ability to offer unique treats by pulling dessert off of your regular menu. This makes it easier to update on the fly. Doing this also gives your service staff additional opportunities for suggestive selling.

Pro-tip: The dessert tray is a thing of the past. They’re too hard to maintain and can do more harm than good. Avoid them!

Don’t Forget the Kiddos

Like photography, kids menus aren’t for every establishment. But if you’re going to have one, do it right. Make them as interactive as possible. Anything you can do to help parents keep their children occupied makes their experience better…not to mention the experience of the diners around them.

Pro-tip: Crayons are great. Paper tablecloths and crayons are better if they fit into your restaurant theme!

Wrap Up

In general, restaurants need to have the less is more policy going forward. Having fewer items that you knock out of the park allows you to deliver a fresher, more consistent product day in and day out. That allows you to keep your food costs and prep time down and makes menu analysis much, much easier. Proper use of your digital POS allows you to see what sells, when it sells, and how much of it you sell so you can optimize your menu over time. This is how you figure out what people like, what’s most profitable for you, and what’s costing you money.

I would love to get your feedback on menus you’ve either loved or hated. Reach out to me at John@StockiExchange.com.

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