Your menu is your best selling tool as well as the most important marketing piece you will ever have for your restaurant. A well-designed menu will influence your guests’ first impressions: If your menu is hard to read, confusing and too complicated, your customers will become frustrated and may not return. Here are the six most common restaurant menu design mistakes:

Don’t overwhelm your customers with a big menu

Too many dishes on your menu will confuse and overwhelm your customers. Consider having a well-planned menu by offering a variety of options and remember that the more choices you give someone, the longer it will take them to make a decision. Help your customers make a quick decision by keeping your menu short, simple and easy to read and understand. Instead of spending time on developing a big menu, focus on unique foods that will not only keep your customers coming back but will also bring new customers in.

Poor menu design and layout

A restaurant menu should not be something that you throw together; it should not be an afterthought. It’s an extension of your restaurant’s brand and should certainly not be neglected. Your entire menu should be easy to read and scan in a few minutes. Each item should be well-thought out, discussed, and analyzed by you, your chef and your team.

Your menu design should be logical and your food presentation should be stimulating and appealing. Other than the design and layout, your menu will need an appropriate colour palette, type and font selection, and a proper paper/cover selection. Just remember that your content should be your superstar. 

Menu descriptions are too long and confusing

If your customers cannot understand the name of your food items, how will they be able to order any food on your menu? Your menu descriptions have to create guest interest and generate sales. Long descriptions will confuse your guests. Keep your menu organized and describe each food item properly. Remember that some words have more selling power than others. Use short, concise and accurate descriptions for each item on your menu.

It’s also important to know that too many different type/font selections within your menu will either draw customers in or scare them off. Effective typography will communicate your restaurant’s brand and result in a more legible menu. Your type should look clean and consistent. As a general rule, try to stick to two different fonts – to distinguish the names and descriptions of each menu item. DON’T CAPITALIZE everything, and if you have to – go bold. 

Overuse of dollar sign

Studies have shown that customers are more likely to spend more when the dollar signs are omitted. Dollar sign overuse communicates that your restaurant is all about money, not quality. Your restaurant should reflect a tone of warm hospitality rather than business and commerce. Incorporate your prices at the end of each menu item description, using the same size font and leaving two to three spaces between the end of the description and the price.

Price lists: Menu items on the left, price on the right

When restaurants write their menu items on the left and price on the right, connecting all the lines with dots, it reveals a lack of sophistication, and is one of the biggest mistakes in menu design. And don’t write items on your menu in price from high to low or vice versa. Try to mix them up.

Old and dirty menu

The first thing a customer will get in his hands is your menu. Old, dirty or wrinkled menus will always give an unappetizing first impression. Your menu will be susceptible to grease, beverage stains, tears and fingerprints. A stained menu will raise questions about the hygiene standard of your restaurant and will give a bad reflection of your brand. Always check all your menus to ensure that they’re in excellent condition, and make sure you order durable menus, whether they are laminated or made from paper.

Failing to proofread your menu

When you’re spending a good amount of money revamping your menu, don’t forget to spend time spellchecking it. Pay special attention to all the details, and carefully read through every item, word and text. Don’t be the only one checking your menu; get others to check it too, such as your chef and each member of your team. Your restaurant’s menu is your most important sales tool so make sure it’s professionally written.

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 30 years. She is recognized as the industry leader in providing innovative and revenue-increasing foodservice and retail merchandising programs, interior design, branding, menu engineering, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at 416-926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655 or, or visit


Beth Pollock is a communications and content marketing expert. Working with Restaurants Canada, she has edited and published two newsletters (RC Insider and BITE); developed the RC Show website; managed social media feeds (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram); and written press releases, blog stories, operational manuals, and an op-ed for the Globe & Mail. Beth is also a freelance writer who has written for a number of publications about food, travel, and children’s books, and has written over 600 posts on her personal blog, Of Muses and Meringues about recipes and her personal travels. She has published three books for children.

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