How to Write a Restaurant Menu

A restaurant menu is more than just a list of food with prices. It represents your restaurant concept. An effective menu can bring in new customers and keep them coming back.

1
Choose Menu Items

Mature couple eating in a restaurant
Bloom Productions/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Creating a restaurant menu can be overwhelming. What dishes should you offer and what should you skip? The ideal restaurant menu offers a balance of unique dishes and old favorites. It also has the right food cost to maintain profits and can be easily reproduced in the kitchen during a busy dinner rush.

2
Price Menu Items

mother and daughter choosing food in cafe.
Betsie Van Der Meer/Taxi/Getty Images

Knowing the correct food cost for menu items is essential for a profitable menu. Food cost refers to the menu price of a certain dish in comparison to the cost of the food used to prepare that same dish. In other words, how much you pay for food will determine how much you need to charge for it. Generally, food cost should be around 30-35%. This means that if you pay $1.00 for something, you need to charge minimum of $3.34. It may seem like you are charging a lot more than necessary, but keep in mind that you aren't just paying for the food itself. You are paying someone to prepare the food, serve the food, and clean up after the food.

3
Decide on a Menu Layout

A weathered restaurant menu
Brent Winebrenner/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Your menu font and color scheme should reflect your restaurant theme. For example, if you are opening a Mexican themed restaurant, vibrant colors such as red, turquoise, purple and green would be good choices for a menu. These same colors would look out of place on the menu of a French bistro or Italian restaurant. Ditto for the font. A French bistro may have a classic script font or simple plain font, while a sports bar or other casual restaurant might have a less formal or playful font. Beware of choosing a font that is hard to read or too small. More

4
Know What to Avoid on Your Restaurant Menu

Caucasian woman looking at menu in restaurant
Blend Images/Ronnie Kaufman/Larry Hirshowitz/Getty Images

The menu is a heart of any restaurant. It showcases everything you have to offer for food and drink. While menus can be as diverse and varied as the restaurants they represent, there are a few guidelines to adhere to when writing yours. There are also certain things you should avoid when designing your restaurant menu. Read on for things to skip before you go to the printer. More

5
Consider Using Local Foods on Your Menu

Farmers washing salad greens in work shed on farm
Thomas Barwick/Stone/Getty Images

More and restaurants are turning to their local neighbors for fresh, flavorful foods. Local foods are finding their way to all kinds of different restaurants, from fine dining to casual sandwich shops.  Anyone with a garden can attest to this fact. Just like homemade bread beats the store bought variety, wholesale vegetables and fruits just don’t compare to local garden goods. And buying local helps your local economy, while at the same time establishing relationships with other business people in your neighborhood. More

6
Keep Your Menu on the Smaller Side

Male customer reading menu in deli
Hero Images/Getty Images

The sky is not your limit when it comes to your restaurant menu. Avoid the temptation to offer a huge selection of items, otherwise you will inevitably be tossing food at the end of the night. Also consider what your restaurant kitchen is capable of producing. More

7
Know When to Update Your Restaurant Menu

Elevated view of four women eating.
Petri Artturi Asikainen/DigitalVision/Getty Images

A menu is not something you write once and then forget about. You should update it at least once a year, preferably two or three times a year. Updating regularly lets you check your food cost and assess how popular or unpopular certain items are.