How to Design a Menu
Many considerations go into the design of a menu. Together with menu engineering, we listed some of the key aspects of restaurant menu design that will determine how successful the menu is: from color, photography, language, highlighted items, all should be in line with the brand personality and functioning to promote high ticket and high margin items.
How Many Menus Should You Produce?
It’s not an exact science, but there are some rules of thumb and planning considerations. One rule of thumb for printed menus which are reused (i.e. in vinyl slip covers, hard bound menu covers, etc) is to produce 1.5 times the number of seats you have (this is cutting it close and conservative). In addition to what you need for just normal operations, consider also printing extras over the 1.5x seat count allotment for replacing bad menus (defects, wear/tear, etc), stolen or missing menus (maybe you did something so nice it grows legs and becomes a souvenir), and then also consider providing full menus to local businesses, food writers/media, and local concierges.
In addition to those uses, also consider a less expensive version that is intended to be taken away such as putting in the bag with all to-go orders, in takeout bags, deliveries, and at local events, you may participate in. It is often much more economical to print/pro- duce too many than to have to go back for a second-run printing or order replacements at a higher price per unit.
How Do You Determine What to Charge Customers?
The objective of pricing, according to Menu Marketing and Management, “…serves the purpose of determining margin profitability, brand positioning, setting pricing objectives and achieving the intended gross profit margin.” You may also use your pricing to aid you in “discerning between a competitive strategy from a premium restaurant pricing strategy.”
There are four ways in which to consider how you are going to price your product:
- Food cost percentage: divide the cost by the net sale. Another approach is dividing the cost of the food by its weight – if you use ounces you will get the cost per ounce; multiplying this by 16, you will get the cost per pound.
- Average check method: Equals total sales / total number of guests served.
- Contribution margin: Equals the sale’s cost minus the variable cost.
- Straight mark-up pricing: The percentage difference between the selling price of a product (what the customer pays) and the cost of the product (what it was purchased for). This may be obtained in numbers or percentages.
Another aspect which must be taken into consideration when determining pricing is employee meals. According to Menu Marketing and Management, there are three ways in which you may factor in the meals you provide to your staff:
- Providing different food than what you serve your clients
- Assign a fixed dollar amount per meal consumption
- Accounting for meal food cost using the restaurant’s food
Lastly, when pricing your menu items the profits and your competition’s pricing are not the only factors you need to consider. Global events such as a volcano erupting in Guatemala may affect the price of the pineapples you serve on your “Hawaiian” pizza.
When calculating pricing always keep in mind that your customers expect “more bang for their buck” and, if they do not receive such from your restaurant they WILL go to your competition
What Are Common Menu Design Mistakes?
Making mistakes in menu design is pretty common when there are no experts involved. One of the most costly mistakes is the haphazard placement of profitable items that results from ineffective menu engineering (or not performing any menu engineering at all). Under-training staff to sell the menu, failing to properly analyze item sales, and missing mobile compatibility to promote the menu are also costly mistakes. We’ve written more on menu design mistakes here.