How To Build The Perfect Menu: Part Two

You’ve put a lot of thought into creating each recipe. Now, it’s time to put equal thought into the menu design itself.

Why? Because the menu is your chance to tell your customers what to buy.

Where to List Your Recipes

Did you know that the average customer decides what to order after 109 seconds?

Customers don’t read the menu in order. Normally, their eyes first go to the middle of the page, then the top right, then the top left. This is the Golden Triangle rule.

So, when planning your menu design, put your stars and puzzles in this golden triangle so they’ll be seen, and put the highest-margin item at the top of each section.

Item Names & Descriptions

Good descriptions are more than a list of ingredients. They evoke the feeling the dish is supposed to give. They make your customers’ taste buds water.

According to menu engineer Greg Rapp, “It’s been proven that sales will go up by almost 30% when they have a good description.”

  • Creativity is great but be clear about what the customer is ordering.
  • Use adjectives! Health terms (grass-fed, line caught, [insert local farm]), cultural/geographic words (Hawaiian, Cuban, Cajun), sensational words (tender, crisp, satin), and nostalgic phrases  (homestyle, traditional, Grandma’s) are big sellers.
  • Briefly describe the cooking process. Words such as “marinated”, “grilled”, “hand-cut” and “garnished” speak to your customers’ senses.
  • Appetizing descriptions may be used to make an expensive dish sound “worth it”.
    • Some menu engineers purposely give their “dogs” (the least profitable and popular items) less appealing descriptions than their “stars” (most profitable and popular) to drive sales!


Adding a high-quality photo to your menu can increase sales for that item up to 30%, says Greg Rapp. But add too many photos, and your menu becomes cluttered.

Use this to your advantage. Show one high-margin item per page – give your customers a taste of what you want them to order. And make sure all your photos are professionally-taken!

Attracting attention to certain dishes

These tricks will give your highest-margin dishes an extra boost of attention:

  • Group a few items together in a box or put a box around one item per category.
  • Different typography: bold, italics, bigger font, etc.
  • Create a special menu that highlights a few dishes (these can be promoted as “seasonal” dishes, or just about anything else).

Use these call-outs sparingly for the most impact.

Displaying Your Prices

Your goal is to make your customers forget they’re spending money, so they’ll spend more. Here’s how to do it:

  • Don’t use dollar signs.
    • Listing that entrée as 23 instead of $23.00 sounds less daunting, doesn’t it?
  • Put the price immediately after the menu description.
    • If you line up all the prices in a column, customers will be more inclined to compare prices and order the cheapest option.
  • Use relative pricing.
    • For example, put a $50 entree above a $29 item to make the lower-priced item seem reasonable.

As your business grows, remember to re-evaluate your menu and make changes as needed. Menu engineering is a continuous process!

If you missed Part 1 of How to Build the Perfect Menu, click here.