Starry Eyes Media

4 Menu Design Mistakes That Will Sink Your Profits

by | Jan 31, 2024 | Menu Design, Print Design

A photo of a page from the Red Oak Grill restaurant dinner menu showing a photo of their seared ribeye steak dish.

Did you know your restaurant could make 15% more in profits with a properly designed menu? Menus are a powerful tool for a restaurant. The downside of that truth is that there are pitfalls that could mean your menu loses you money. It’s surprising but true: having a great chef, a fast kitchen staff, friendly front-of-house service, a gorgeous interior, and even a wonderful location are all incredibly important, but none of that guarantees your restaurant will be profitable. In fact, you can have all those things, and still see your restaurant struggle if your menu isn’t on point. Even with all those benefits in place, some serious menu design mistakes will still limit your success.

Your menu could be losing you money day after day!

1. Selling Your Items for Less Than It Costs To Prepare Them and Losing Money on Every Dish

Evaluate Your Menu

This mistake turns success into disaster: the more customers you get, the worse off you’ll be!

While this may seem like an obvious mistake anyone could avoid, it’s easier to loose track of costs per dish than you might think. Do you know exactly how much each of your dishes costs? With forces of inflation and supply issues making prices fluctuate, it’s not too difficult for your costs to creep up too close to your profits. If it’s been a while, be sure to thoroughly audit how much it costs to make each dish and check again regularly when prices for your ingredients rise.

The first thing you’ll need to do is evaluate your menu. This includes looking to see if your current pricing needs to be adjusted based on, say, changing costs for groceries or other factors. Are there ways you could save on costs, for instance by sourcing locally? Can you save by preparing more in-house rather than purchasing prepared items? Can you adjust your menu seasonally to use fruits and veggies when they are freshest and cheapest?

2. Burying Your Most Profitable Dishes Where No One Sees Them on Your Menu

Know where To Put Your Highest Margin Items

If you’ve made this menu design mistake, you’re letting potential profits walk out the door!

To avoid it, find your most popular items with the highest profit margins—this is your menu star! It’s the dish that draws people to your restaurant, is fast to prepare (for quick turnover), and it’s the dish that costs little to prepare but makes the highest profits. Feature that item prominently on your menu in key locations. For this task, some menu locations are better than others.

Understanding “heat maps” for menu design is critical to helping you to know where to place the items you most want people to buy. Studies show the center and top left of menus receive the most attention and are often the first places on your menus a customer will turn their eyes. You can reserve these spots for your most important menu items to help them get even more attention.

3. Not Using Your Menu Design To Guide Customers

Use Good Photography and Negative Space To Lead the Viewer

This menu design mistake gives your customers a worse experience and can leave your dishes starving for attention!

Attractive photography and negative space are like a navigator: they guide viewers through the menu and point out the highlights. Call direct attention to your headline dishes with an attractive photo that immediately attracts the viewer and gets their mouth watering. Use negative space to lead the eye through your menu and create intuitive divisions between the sections of your menu. You can also use color to highlight particular potions of your menu you want to receive more attention.

As we mentioned above, certain areas of menus tend to receive more attention or get noticed before other areas. Additionally, the techniques of photography, negative space, and color can all be used to help make sure other important sections of your menu receive attention too. Also, you can use these same techniques in those heatmap zones (center and top-left) to reinforce their effects.

4. Neglecting To Consult Menu Experts for the Tricks of the Trade

Use Consumer Psychology for Menu Prices and More

If you’ve made this mistake, you may be unaware of ways your menu is leaving money on the table!

A study from Cornell University shows that listing a number for your pricing, like “14”, is more profitable than a menu that lists the price as “$14”, with the dollar sign. The study found that “guests given the numeral-only menu spent significantly more than those who received a menu with prices showing a dollar sign.“ This is just one example of easy tricks to improve the effectiveness of your menus.

Consulting experts for their tricks and hard-earned knowledge is a tremendous help for any endeavor, including running a restaurant. Whether that’s designers or other experienced restaurant owners, they may have some game-changing advice for your printed media that’s just a question away. This input will go a long way to helping you avoid these menu design mistakes with your restaurant.

If you’re a restaurant owner looking to tweak your menus or have a complete redesign, take a look at our restaurant marketing services and how they can raise the level of your restaurant.


4 Menu Design Mistakes That Will Sink Your Profits

by | Jan 31, 2024 | Menu Design, Print Design