Restaurant Menu Ideas

Restaurant menu design is part science, part creativity. Striking the balance between a well-designed menu and a functional one is simple, as long as you know the key elements for great restaurant menu ideas. 

New Restaurant Menu Ideas Start with Design

On average, guests will only look at a menu for 109 seconds. A well-planned menu design is key to providing the best experience for them and the best sales for you. Some of our favorite restaurant menu designs can be found below for inspiration, but first let’s talk about what takes a menu from good to great.

The Elements of Great Restaurant Menu Design

Limit Options

When it comes to menu design, less is more. When faced with too many choices, people experience what is known as decision paralysis. If your menu is too large, it can hurt your bottom line – when people find it hard to make decisions, they often order fewer items. No more than seven items per category is best.

Ease Pricing Pain Points

  • DON’T use $ signs. A study published in the Cornell Hospitality Report found that guests spent less when dollar signs are used on the menu. 
  • DO use expensive decoys. Want to sell more lobster dishes? Guests may be avoiding it because it’s the most expensive dish on the menu. Add a more expensive decoy dish, and your lobster sales should rise.

Highlight High-profit Items

Highlighting a popular item on your menu by making it jump off the page provides relief to hungry guests who want to make a quick decision. To benefit both you and your guests, choose an item that is both popular and profitable. 

Use White Space

Here’s another way in which less = more. Don’t jam-pack every available inch of your menu with text or photos. One powerful restaurant menu idea is to give the text some visual “breathing room” so guests can easily navigate the menu.

Stay On Brand

Menu design elements that look amazing on a burger joint menu will be off-putting for a fine dining crowd. Make sure your brand’s color, fonts, tone of voice, and overall aesthetics are present in your menu design.

Use Photos Mindfully

Including a photo next to a menu item can increase sales by 30% – but you can have too much of a good thing. If you’re going to use photos, make sure they are professionally shot and align with the rest of the design elements we’ve listed above. A good restaurant menu idea to follow is one photo per page, max.

Utilize the Golden Triangle

People tend to look at the center of the page first, then move their eyes to the top right corner followed by the top left corner in a triangle. Place your most profitable items along these lines (without sacrificing the design, of course).

Get Input

Whether you design your menu yourself or hire a professional, show a draft to your staff, business partners, friends, and family… anyone who eats at restaurants! They may not know the rules of good design, but they will be able to tell you what they like and don’t like from a guest’s perspective.

Know When to Break the Rules

As always, there are exceptions to these rules. For example, blue is generally a color that suppresses appetite, but the right kind of blue is perfect to evoke the fresh-from-the-ocean feeling in a seafood restaurant. Check out our restaurant menu ideas below to see our favorite examples that follow, but sometimes break, the rules.

Start creating your new menu now with the free Upserve Menu Builder.

Examples of Restaurant Menu Designs for Inspiration

Fine Dining: Elaia, St. Louis MO

Like many fine-dining restaurants, Elaia’s menu changes daily. Menus that rotate daily or weekly need to be easy for anyone to edit on-demand, but even if a menu comes from a simple Word doc it can still be beautifully designed.

elaia restaurant menu ideas

French Bistro: Lafayette, New York City

French design is generally very ornamental, so designing a clear and readable menu with a French vibe can be a challenge. Lafayette nails it with their menu’s simple typeface, clean lines, and minimal but impactful decorative elements.

Lafayette restaurant menu ideas

Modern Mexican: Citrus & Salt, Boston MA

Citrus & Salt’s decor is bright and their coastal Mexican food is bold, so they make sure their menu conveys exactly that. On their brunch menu, the most popular item is clearly marked so even the most indecisive guest can easily make a choice.

citrus and salt restaurant menu ideas

Oyster Bar: Eventide Oyster Co., Portland ME

Eventide keeps their main attraction – the oysters – front and center. The full list of oysters is big and bold, taking up about half of the total page space, and the rest of the menu is revealed by opening a flap on the right side.

 

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Coffee & Brunch Spot: Stay Golden, Nashville TN

Stay Golden is a combination coffee roastery and brunch restaurant, so they take their morning beverages seriously. A beverage menu that takes up as much space as the food menu can get overwhelming, but Stay Golden helps guests make a quick choice with call-out boxes, clean aesthetics, and clear headings.

stay golden restaurant menu ideas

Korean BBQ: K-Pop BBQ and Bar, Woodstock GA

K-Pop’s menu has a varied but manageable amount of options that simplify the decision-making process. The menu design is simple, but by choosing the right typeface and color scheme, it goes perfectly with the restaurant’s pop art-style decor.

 

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Beer Hall: Bayberry Beer Hall, Providence RI

While their food menu is well-designed, Bayberry’s custom-made wall mounted beer menu is the stuff Instagram dreams are made of.

 

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Mess Hall: Ladybird, Atlanta GA

Ladybird’s “mess hall” style brings guests back to summer camp circa the 1960s-70s. Their menu is presented in the style of a field guide that one would bring on a hike or camping trip and is supplemented with a branded map to help guests find nearby lakes, trails, and sporting goods stores.

 

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Bakery: PVDonuts, Providence RI

Many bakeries don’t have a physical menu beyond a board behind the counter, but with so many people looking to the internet for recommendations, having your menu online is crucial. PVDonuts, which has a menu that rotates monthly, has their menu designed and optimized for Instagram and keeps it saved in a highlight so users can easily find it. They cover all their bases by posting it on their website and sending it out to their email list as well.

 

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Classic Diner: Phoenicia Diner, Catskills NY

There are a hundred ways to cook an egg, so classic 1950s-style diners are often jam-packed and chaotic. By using some simple lines and bold headings, Phoenicia offers customers the variety they expect in a diner setting without the confusion. They use typography and small, curated illustrations to evoke the ‘50s feel without being tacky or kitschy. 

 

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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
Written by   |  
Stephanie is a Providence, RI native with a deep love for her little city and all its quirks. When she's not writing about the restaurant industry as Upserve's Content Marketing Coordinator, she's most likely traveling, cooking, trying new restaurants, reading, podcasting, or spending time with family.