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Everyone has been to a restaurant where the menu has really stood out from the crowd. But everyone has also been to plenty of restaurants where the menu looks exactly the same as dozens of other menus, just filled with different information.

Handling your own restaurant menu design can sound like a daunting task if you don’t have a design background or the funding to bring in the pros, but rest assured that it isn’t anything the average restaurateur can’t handle with a little bit of the right information.

If you’ve ever wondered how to design a restaurant menu, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the steps you need to follow to make a menu from scratch.

Step 1: Cover the basics

The first thing you need to figure out when creating your own menu is what’s going to be on the menu. “The idea restaurant menu offers a balance of classic dishes and fresh food trends while balancing the right food cost to maintain and increase profits,” explains the Balance.

Designing a restaurant menu is definitely an instance of form following function. The menu has to lend itself to the dishes and drinks you offer, not the other way around which is why the first step is deciding what to offer. Once you know what will be on the menu, you can move into the more straightforward design elements.

Step 2: Write the descriptions

Now that you know what will be on the menu, the next step is coming up with a description for each menu item. It’s always a good idea to bring in a professional writer if you can, but for those who are determined to DIY their project all the way through, the goal of menu descriptions is to entice readers (aka your guests). Don’t overdo it—keep descriptions short and sweet but be sure to cover all of the main ingredients and note anything special about the dish or an ingredient.

80% of a restaurant’s food sales come from only 16% of menu items. How do you know which ones? The perfect menu is just a click away with Upserve's Menu Builder.

Design Your Menu

Step 3: Tackle the layout

“A restaurant menu layout is a reflection of the restaurant itself,” explains the Balance. “Restaurant menu designs, whether formal, casual, or playful, should match your restaurant concept, location, and theme.” That means that if you have taken a minimalist approach to your restaurant’s logo and interior design, the menu should match otherwise it will seem out of place.

Step 4: Take advantage of free restaurant menu templates

It’s the age of the internet, which means that you can accomplish almost anything on the world wide web, including designing your own menu.

There is a range of free restaurant menu templates to choose from. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Canva. All you need are photos and descriptions and Canva does the rest for you. They have a library of layouts to choose from as well as over a million stock images as well.
  • Adobe Spark. While understanding the Adobe Creative Suite will make navigating Spark a lot easier, with a little bit of learning you can make incredibly professional-looking menus with this software.
  • 99designs. This is one of the spendier options, but it’s also one of the easiest and fastest to use. Starting at $199, 99designs offers dozens of layouts as well as a money-back guarantee.
  • Your Menu Here. We’d be silly not to include Upserve’s free restaurant menu design builder. It’s the first “Smart Menu” builder template that uses data-driven best practices and the psychology of menu design.

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Cinnamon is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and journalist who paid a large part of her way through college and graduate school by serving. Her work has been published with outlets like National Geographic, the Washington Post, Pacific Standard, and more. You can read more about her at www.cinnamon-janzer.com.
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