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Designing the Perfect Menu in 4 Easy Steps

There are a surprising number of professions that may require you to know how to make a killer menu. Whether you’re a restaurant owner, chef, kitchen manager, catering cook or freelance graphic designer, it can be important to know how to best present your cuisine options to maximize the customer experience and overall sales.

Here are 4 simple steps for designing the perfect menu:

1. Ease of Use

The first thing is to make sure that the menu-using experience is simple and easy. When viewing your menu, diners should be able to get a general sense of your cuisine style and how it’s priced. They should also be able to narrow down their choices to what they prefer without having to read through the whole menu. Try separating your dishes into logical categories, like “appetizers” and “entrees,” or “chicken dishes” and “beef dishes.” Avoid being too wordy with your descriptions or too busy with the design.

2. Use Psychology

Studies suggest that most customers read menus like a book—left to right. Keep this in mind and try to order information so it makes sense and flows logically. Studies also suggest that consumers are likely to spend more when a menu does not use currency signs. People don’t typically like to think about how much they’re spending, so an unsuspecting “10” is much less alarming than “$10.00.”

3. Keep it On-Brand

You want to make sure your menu makes sense with your style of cuisine. Infuse your menu with your brand by using similar color schemes and fonts as the rest of your branding, but don’t go too far or it will be too overwhelming.

4. Be Picky with Photos

While photos of your dishes can help customers to make an informed order, too much photography can clutter and menu, making it look almost “spammy.” Instead, feature a few big-ticket items that look delicious and sell well. Make sure that these photos are high-quality, too, as poor photography can be a death sentence for your restaurant. It can almost be better to have no photos than unappetizing photos of your food. Dimly lit, out of focus food photography makes dishes look less appetizing, thus leading to less sales of an otherwise delicious dish. Incorporate a few well-lit, crisp, professional-looking photos of your best-selling dishes and watch how those dish sales transform.

You might think you need to hire a professional graphic designer or photographer for this project. While getting a professional’s help can definitely make things easier on you, there are ways to complete your project on your own easily and effectively.

If you’re doing the design on your own, it’s best to keep it simple. The more elements you add, the more likely you’re going to get in over your head and create a cheesy or confusing menu. Try free websites with graphic design tools like Canva.com or BeFunky.com to at least map out the general layout of your desired menu.

If you’re doing the photography on your own, all you really need is a decent camera, a professional light-source and some delicious-looking food. These days, most smart phone cameras take quality images… they’re not best for taking images that need to be blown up for posters or other print ads, but they’ll take clear photos for your menu. With a smartphone and a light box, you should be able to take clear, well-lit and appetizing photos of your food.

You need the SHOTBOX! The SHOTBOX is a tabletop light box that is self-contained and collapsible, making it easy to set up, take down, transport and use. It also has varying options for photo angles—with strategically placed holes in the top of the box, you can take perfect top-down shots. With the SideShot, you can also take front-facing images with additional frontal lighting. All of this means that you can make your dish, stick it in your SHOTBOX, and snap a picture on your phone—all from the comfort of your kitchen! Shop the SHOTBOX here.

Remember the most important rule for creating a menu—inspire desire. Your customer needs to want your food, want to visit your location and want to give you their money. This comes with a simple menu that caters to their psyche, a clear brand and awesome photography. If you keep these things in mind, you can’t go wrong!