Restaurant Menu Design Dos and Don'ts

When it comes to planning your restaurant menu, inspiration can come from many different places, including culture, travel experiences, or simply your likes and dislikes. Influences that you're passionate about should help drive menu design, but not define it. Before you get started on your restaurant menu design, consider these factors and tips.

Draw Inspiration from Travel

Exploring the country and world will do wonders in terms of inspiring your menu. However, it's best to offer a nod to the inspiration. When restaurant menu design goes rogue and includes too many cultural influences, it can get confusing for guests and can be quite expensive. When placing an order with vendors, if each dish has a wide range of components and specific ingredients, you run the risk of spoilage or ordering mistakes. Storage space in your kitchen can also become an issue. Draw inspiration from your travels, and try to only use key ingredients that blew you away if they work for your menu.

Don't Let Nostalgia Take Over

The most successful establishments make and sell food that the owner and chef are passionate about, but they also don't allow their passion to get in the way of their overall success. For instance, don't insist on serving your grandmother's cannelloni recipe if it requires excessive labor or ingredients that can only be used for that one dish. It's necessary to step back and realize that while you may relive a fond memory when you eat a certain meal, others won't. Food is situational, so make sure your guests can choose from more than your favorite childhood dishes.

Cross-Utilize Ingredients

Multiple menu items should be able to benefit from an ingredient, and when they do, the menu has been created efficiently. For example, pork belly is a versatile ingredient that can be utilized in a hearty braised dish, cured to make bacon, crisped and served on a salad, thinly sliced and served on a Vietnamese-style banh mi sandwich, or used to flavor a ramen broth. Make the ingredients fit the cultural direction or flavor profile you're going for, and try to order ingredients in bulk to save money.

Limit Your Personal Favorites

You won't be paying to eat at your restaurant every night, so don't include too many of your favorite dishes on the menu. Most chefs have made a dish that they considered to be amazing, but their guests simply weren't impressed. Make sure your menu flows, and includes a mix of dishes that you love and dishes that may not be your favorites. You should also be prepared to revise your menu depending on feedback from customers.

Have a Vision

Understanding the concept, the target market, and demographics of your restaurant is key to starting off your restaurant menu design on the right foot. Forcing a particular concept on a neighborhood that won't support it won't end well, even if the rent is dirt cheap. Be willing to adjust, and be willing to experiment with your dishes in an effort to make them intriguing to guests, and maybe even better than you remember.