For a restaurant, the menu is the most powerful communication tool. It not only introduces guests to your eatery and displays your food offerings, but it also reinforces your brand concept and personality.
This ‘assumingly’ simple booklet has a lot of scope for errors that many restaurateurs may overlook. Here are some of the most common menu mistakes you should definitely avoid in order to run organized kitchens, keep customers happy and build a more profitable restaurant business.
1. Poor Categorization of Food Items
This is one of the most basic rules, but is often ignored. You should always list items in clear groups. The order of the categories is also important. Appetizers, soups, burgers, pizzas, desserts, etc. should feature together and in order of serving. For example, entrés should not feature before soups and appetizers, for your guests might be tempted to order mains, and simply ignore appetizers. Also, it’s a good practice to feature vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes on separate pages.
2. Too Many Items
While you may feel that having a comprehensive menu will give the impression of variety and capability, it, in fact, hurts sales. Guests take longer to decide what they want because of the multitude of options available – this slows down the time taken at the table and you end up serving fewer customers. Also, a big menu more often confuses people as they are not able to decide what you make best. There are more chances you disappoint them.
It’s advisable to concentrate only on your specialties and unique foods that your chef can do justice to, and which will fetch new and repeat customers.
3. No Change in Menu
The best restaurants are the ones where nothing is permanent – the menu keeps rotating, tempting guests to return. But often restaurants simply hand-write on the menu if a new dish is added or removed. This leaves poor impression on the customers.
Don’t invest too much on expensive paper and printing, as even making a small iteration will hurt your pocket. A binding or an elastic menu will let you add an extra page quickly when you introduce new items. However, do not list new dishes to the menu if they are still in trial mode.
4. Lack of Attention to Details
The menu is like your sales brochure. So, put in a lot of thought along with capital investment while designing it. Engage the services of a good graphic designer who can help you design an aesthetically pleasing menu. (Refer to the image below)
- The menu should be clear and readable.
- No matter how great your dishes are, selecting the wrong font style, size, colour and paper can make it difficult for a diner scanning the pages.
- Do not crowd the pages with too many elements or use a background that’s too dark and strains one’s eyes under dim lighting.
- Nothing is worse than reading a menu with typos. If you cannot spell a dish, it doesn’t instil confidence in the patrons that you can cook it. Hence, spellcheck your menu thoroughly.
- The menu should help customers who have never seen or heard of your restaurant visualize the ambience of your place and the type of food served so that they know whether you offer casual or fine dining.
- Your menu should complement the size of the table, plate settings and other aspects. It shouldn’t appear too large, bumping into cups and plates on the table, and making it awkward for the guests to hold it while having a conversation, or look too small on a spacious table.
5. Overemphasis on Price
Stressing on prices alongside items draws the readers’ attention. This causes a guest to dismiss menu items based on price alone. Also, when menu items drastically vary on a single page, it causes guests to select items with the lowest prices. Keep the dish the focal point and not the prices. The prices should be of the same font and text as the menu.
6. Ignoring Upselling Opportunities
Train servers to upsell certain items. But even without servers, upselling should be a part of your menu. Allow guests to add on cheese, mushrooms, olives,nuts, etc. to their dishes and have these options clearly specified so you don’t need to rely solely on the server.
7. Poor Use of Space
Use the front and back of the menu to display information about the restaurant. Information such as opening and closing hours, services, history, address and more is a good idea. Visitors, especially the ones who are not from the state or country, sometimes take back menus as souvenirs.
8. Not Using Customer Psychology
Understanding psychology of your customers can go a long way in pushing sales. Guests’ eyes are usually drawn to the top right of the menu, making it a great place to list best-selling (expensive too) items. Use attractive photos that are pleasing to the eye, as studies show that items with corresponding pictures are thrice as likely to be ordered than items that don’t have photos. However, use this tactic sparingly. If every item has a corresponding picture, the one you really want to sell will not stand out.
9. Not Having an Online Menu
Nowadays, many people like to check the menu online before choosing a restaurant. So make sure you post your menu online. The best way to do this is to have your restaurant’s own website where you can flaunt your menu. You can even tie up with food delivery apps like Zomato and FoodPanda or online reservation services like WowTables, who also show your menus online.
However, make sure your menu facilitates browsing and is mobile-friendly. Hence, refrain from posting it as a PDF.
10. Lack of Description
Menus that don’t describe items alienate customers and take up your servers’ time as they need to explain it. Give a brief and interesting description of your items, explaining if the dish is hot, cold, spicy, vegetarian, or contains nuts, gluten or other allergy-inducing ingredients, especially if the cuisine you serve isn’t native to the land.
A great menu can make an impact on the guest experience and profits. Make a lasting impression with yours.