Whether starting your own restaurant or giving your current venture a refresh, every establishment needs an amazing menu. Your menus are at the heart of your business! They help to give your customers an idea of the type of cuisine you’re known for and give an inkling of the gastronomical journey a person can go on when dining at your venue.
If you want to craft the best menu for an even better guest experience, we’ve got you covered. Our menu planning checklist will help you master the entire process - from getting started to putting the final touches on your menu! Prepare to garner the most profit and wow your customers.
Restaurant Menu Planning Checklist
Before launching into the details, here is the checklist outline of the points you need to cover when developing a menu for your establishment.
- Do your market research
- Pick a cuisine type that you’re going to be known for
- Select your signature dishes
▴Develop Your Menu Types
- Organize your main menu
- Create a beverage menu
- Work on your dessert menu
▴Fill In Your Menu Content
- Highlight the food vendors and ingredient suppliers (justifies pricing, establishes quality)
- Write up the dish/ingredient information (allergens, price, description, etc.)
- Is the menu length in line with your type of restaurant?
- Does the design make for easy reading (for example, in low lighting conditions?)
- Have you considered a seasonal menu for diners?
- Would a tasting menu fit into your restaurant theme?
▴Additional Information To Add To Your Menu
- Highlight your business’s social media information
- Add in a chef and/or owner bio
- Include a QR code that links to your private event contact form
Now, let’s look at these points in more detail.
Tips For Getting Started
Begin With Market Research
Before you start planning your restaurant’s menu, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with your competition. Spend some time looking into other local restaurants that offer the same cuisine. Check what menu items they have available and which special offers draw in customers. It’s essential to look at their menu prices as well so that you can provide competitive dining.
Additionally, creating a memorable menu concept is all about knowing your target customers. Knowing your ideal demographic can help you get a leg up on the competition. Your restaurant menu should cater to your desired clientele and offer menu items you know they’ll love at a price they can afford!
Pick a Cuisine Type That You’ll Be Known for
Generally, the most successful restaurants focus on perfecting one cuisine type. They find their theme, for example, Italian, Mexican, street food, French dining, etc., and work hard to impress with their dishes. Given the focus, they have the resources to hire outstanding chefs, create amazing dishes, and really stand out to diners.
In contrast, those that spread themselves thin and try to tackle too many cuisine types at once often end up falling short of impressing. There’s a fine line to consider here - where do you want your establishment to sit?
Other considerations include market saturation of the cuisine type you hope to offer. How do you plan to differentiate yourself in the market if there are already a few competitors serving it up? What is your USP?
Set Yourself Apart With Amazing Signature Dishes
The restaurant industry is competitive. So it’s vital to have a unique menu item that sets your establishment apart from the competition. A specialty drink or food item can help build your brand and keep customers coming back.
For example, a bistro may offer a specialty sandwich or coffee blend that is unique to their restaurant. This will bring in customers who want something that no one else offers!
Develop Your Various Menu Types
Depending on your type of venue, it often pays to create different menu types, for example, a main menu, drinks menu, and dessert menu. Doing this will encourage diners to spend more time browsing their options and really engage with your dishes before ordering. Plus, long lists with pages of meal options may be skimmed and seem somewhat overwhelming.
Of course, the structure will depend on the style of your restaurant. More casual dining might have all their courses on one menu. However, fine dining restaurants generally have a separate drinks and dessert menu to offer diners.
When it comes to the structure, focus on developing a logical flow according to courses. This will make it easier for your guests to find the items they’re looking for. Start with entrees and work your way up to the mains.
An impressive drinks list often wows diners. So, it’s an idea to design a separate menu where you can highlight all the great options you have to offer.
Again, arrange this by broader categories, for example, Mocktails, Cocktails, Beers, Wines, Whiskeys, Tequilas, Gins, and so on. This way, patrons can easily peruse what you have on offer and order what they love.
Fill In Your Menu Content
Your menu plays a big part in getting diners through the door. If their first glance at the menu reveals higher prices without any apparent justification, you may be losing out on filling seats.
The workaround is to use your menu to sell the experience and quality you’re offering. For example, mention those lovely organic dish ingredients you have sourced sustainably from local farmers.
We also recommend you include a brief description and price alongside your menu items. If it makes sense, highlight the respective ingredients (and love) that go into masterfully preparing each dish.
Notably, outline any allergens your guests need to be aware of. An easy way to do this is by using visual aids. Small symbols next to an item’s name are generally helpful. Just remember to add a key at the bottom, so your customers know each symbol's meaning!
Other Essential Considerations
Is the Menu Length Right?
Certain expectations around menu length and dish information come with specific restaurant types.
For example, diners who go to fast-food restaurants with relaxed atmospheres may prefer a shorter menu with simple descriptions. After all, their purpose is to grab food and go - not spend ages pouring over complicated menus.
Alternatively, high-end dining is a more leisurely experience. So, fine dining establishments can offer menus with lengthier dish descriptions. They can include information on how the food is prepared and where the ingredients were sourced.
Is the Design Easy-to-read?
Your menu design is just as important as what you offer customers. Make sure to have a spacious layout without crowding your menu pages.
You should also ensure that the font is big enough to read and that your customers are given everything they need to know in one place.
Have You Considered Seasonal Offerings?
Seasonal menus are getting a great deal of attention these days, both with diners and restaurateurs.
Going seasonal and marketing your venue as such can help you build exciting signature dishes unique to your establishment. This helps to market your restaurant and create a sense of exclusivity. You can keep your regular customers interested by having a changing menu that uses only the freshest local ingredients.
Using seasonal produce also helps reduce food costs as supply is plentiful during harvest. You can increase your profit margin since you’ll be using affordable, easy-to-source ingredients that are always available.
Does a Tasting Menu Fit Your Theme?
Another menu type getting a lot of traction is a tasting menu. Especially if you’re launching a new restaurant, this sort of menu can be a great way to steer diners to your signature dishes for sampling. It uses seasonal ingredients that are easy to come by and generally provides excellent value for money.
Of course, there’s a draw card in there for diners too. As the menu price is fixed, they know how much their meal will cost them right away.
Consider it a bonus if you can add to the experience by including an optional wine or alcohol pairing.
Additional Must-Have Menu Information
Restaurant History and Chef Biography
When eating out, diners’ interest doesn’t begin and end with the food. There’s the social and experiential side of the occasion to consider too. A good way to engage your patrons and bring them closer to your venue is to weave the story of how your restaurant came to be.
Include a write-up of its history on the menu, alongside a biography of the chef and owners.
Links to Social Media
Social media can play a big part in marketing your restaurant. Chances are your diners will take to social media at some point to share a bit of their experience. Whether they add photos to Instagram, check-in on Facebook, or set the scene on TikTok, you want to be there to get proof of that moment.
In that sense, it pays to include your social media links on your menu. This way, diners can easily tag your restaurant and show their social proof to the world. Having a link to your social media accounts lets your guests interact with your business long after they’ve left your establishment.
You can also use social media platforms to post your online menu or alert your customers of special events that are coming up.
QR Code To Your Private Event Form
If you plan on hosting private events at your venue, placing a QR code on your menu that links to your contact form can be a great upsell. It makes it simple for the diner to submit an event inquiry while seated and having a great time at your restaurant.
A menu is so much more than a list of restaurant offerings. Instead, it’s a sales tool and a way to engage with your customers. Putting the perfect menu together can be tricky, but with our restaurant menu planning checklist, you’ll be a menu planning pro in no time!