With all of the planning, the logistics and everything else that goes with launching a restaurant, it's easy to overlook one of the most important aspects of a take-out restaurant: the menu.

Don't underestimate the power of restaurant take-out menus. The right design, layout and color scheme can boost sales and attract new customers. But a poorly designed menu could cause you to lose business.

For many potential customers, your menu will be the very first thing that introduces them to your brand. It's important to make a good first impression.

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It's easy to create a restaurant take-out menu, but it's hard to create a good one. Use these tips and take-out restaurant menu ideas to create a menu that keeps customers coming back for more.

1. Branding is Important

You've put in the effort to create a logo for your restaurant and you may have even settled on a design theme for the interior of your restaurant. All of these design elements should translate over to your menu.

This means including your brand's:

  • Logo

  • Colors

  • Font style

  • Theme or style

The menu plays an important role in the overall branding of your restaurant. It should follow the look and ambiance that you hope to convey with your restaurant.

In other words, the menu should look like it belongs in your restaurant.

2. Make Your Menu Scannable

Diners spend about 109 seconds reading a menu. It's important to make every second count. Making your menu scannable will allow diners to find the dish they want more quickly.

How do you achieve this? Here are some tips:

  • Use clear section headings

  • Make dish titles easy to find

  • Use decorative frames and graphics to draw attention to certain dishes

3. Place Your Highest-Margin Dishes in the Right Places

If diners only spend 109 seconds scanning a menu, where do their eyes spend most of their time? Looking at the first and last items on the menu.

Items listed first and last tend to be the biggest sellers, so place your highest-margin dishes in these slots.

Diners' eyes usually gravitate to the top right-hand corner of the menu first; an area known as the "sweet spot." Here's where you want to place your most expensive dishes.

Use illustrations (tastefully drawn graphics) or typography (larger, bolder fonts) to draw the diner's eyes to that sweet spot. You can also use decorative elements to draw the eye to certain dishes that you want diners to order, like your most expensive dishes.

In the industry, they call these elements "eye magnets," and it's important to be strategic when implementing them into your menu. The more often you emphasize dishes, the less of an impact it will have. Ideally, you want to limit your highlighted items to just one per category or section of the menu.

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4. Harness the Power of Color to Influence Emotions

People respond to colors in a subconscious way, which is why it's often used for emphasis when creating menus. While restaurants may use a variety of colors, red and blue are most popular. Why? Because they are believed to trigger appetite.

Other colors can be used as well. Seafood restaurants often incorporate blue into their menus, as the color is associated with the ocean and brings to mind freshly caught fish.

Colors can be used to establish hierarchy in a menu, making it easier to separate sections and make restaurant take-out menus more scannable.

5. Use Photos Sparingly

Gone are the days of pairing photos with every item on the menu. Modern restaurants use photos sparingly, but that doesn't mean you should nix them altogether. Including one photograph per page can actually increase sales by 30%.

Choose your photos wisely when adding them to your menu. Make them enticing and mouth-watering. Play up the colors and textures of the items.

Alternatively, you can just add illustrations. High-end restaurants often choose to include illustrations instead of photos of their dishes.

6. Be Poetic

Sure, you can keep it simple by just listing the name of the dish and its ingredients. But if your goal is to get the diners' taste buds tingling, then you need to be a little more poetic with your dish names and descriptions. This is especially important for drawing diners to the more expensive items on your menu.

Of course, take-out restaurants don't need to go too far with this aspect. But using descriptive language will make your dishes more appealing and may even leave your diners feeling more satisfied. Using terms like "spicy," "homemade," "fresh," "savory," and "rich" will appeal to the diner's taste buds.

Descriptive language can also be used to offset the cost of more expensive dishes by making diners feel like the dish is worth splurging on.

7. Remove the Dollar Signs and Bury the Prices

Pricing is always tricky when creating a menu. You don't want to scare off diners, but you also need to make a profit. The goal is not to have diners simply choose the cheapest item on the menu.

Removing the dollar sign from your prices will help diners forget about the "pain" of having to pay for their meal. While you can't remove the cost of the dishes from your menu, you can make them less visible. By placing the price below the description in a smaller font, you get the chance to sell the dish before the diner's eyes get to the prices. If you use convincing language, the cost of the dish will suddenly become irrelevant (or less relevant).

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8. Use Expensive Decoys

What's one way to make your restaurant's higher prices seem more reasonable? Add an expensive decoy to the list.

Take-out restaurants aren't notorious for their high prices - not compared to a five-star restaurant anyway - but if your food is a bit pricier than the competition, you can employ this strategy.

The trick is to add one overly expensive item to the menu, which makes the rest of your items seem reasonably priced by comparison.

Slightly higher prices also give the impression that the food is of higher quality.

Use these eight psychological design hacks to make your take-out menu stand out in the crowd. Remember to take your time when creating your menu. It's important to get this part right.


Learn more on how to manage a successful take-out restaurant: