How to Format a Food Menu

main dish image by Werg from

A restaurant's business is to sell food, and the most important tool at a business owner's disposal is its menu. In fact, nine out of every ten dollars a restaurant earns in profits is due directly to the information found on the menu, according to Seva Procurement Solutions. Creating a vibrant menu is the most critically important means of boosting sales and exposing customers to your restaurant's cuisine. Formatting a successful menu requires combining traditional ideas with new and specific approaches to capture your customer's attention--and business.

Categorize your dishes. Separate foods into sections devoted specifically for appetizers, salads, entrees, desserts and a la carte items.

Order the food sections in a logical sequence. In other words, list the items your customer would normally eat first at the beginning of your menu and proceed accordingly. Placing appetizers at the end of the menu, for example, will cause confusion for the customer.

Provide punchy and succinct descriptions beneath the listing of each dish. Use dynamic and easy to understand language to arouse the customer’s interest. Keep descriptions to two sentences. Use interesting facts--the Chilean sea bass "was line caught in open water," for example--to increase the allure of the dish. Reduce the font size to indicate that the description is a subsidiary component--albeit an enhancement--to the listing.

Highlight popular or "plow-horse" dishes with unique symbols. Plow-horse dishes are your most popular items and those that generate constant money for the restaurant. Enhance their image on the menu by placing a star next to the listing or formatting a frame around the listing and its description to indicate that the item is recommended.

Use clear font throughout the menu. Choose a font that is easy on the customer's eyes and simple to read.

Contrast colors between the font and menu background. A dark font and a dark background make the menu hard to read. A soft white background with bold black font, for example, helps the customer read the menu as well.

Mind the size of the font. Font that is too small is imperceptible to the eye. Font that is too large is overwhelming and will substantially increase the pages of your menu. A 14-point font is a standard reading size and a wise option for food listings.