Menu design, layout and organization can encourage spending, highlight high-margin items and engage customers — if done properly. Veteran foodservice consultant Karen Malody, president of Culinary Options in Seattle, offers some tips and best practices on how a well-designed menu can help maximize sales.
And while Malody says she doesn’t typically think of commercial printers as having much influence on most aspects of menu creation, they can nevertheless play a contributing role — especially if they are drawn into the menu design process.
Here are some areas in which Malody says a knowledgeable, astute printer can be helpful:
• Font type and size. Is the font selection in harmony with the type of concept? I cannot believe how often this important choice is overlooked. I see inappropriate font style constantly. Matching the font with the style of the restaurant is a necessity. Think of it as part of the décor and marketing message.
A question to ask the printer during the design stage is, “Will diners be able to read the font easily, even with reading glasses, in what could be a dimly lit environment?” Less than 12-point font is unacceptable, and especially with some styles. Also ask the printer, “Are the menu item titles in bold and/or set off with another font style from the copy to ease the reading effort?” If not, they should be.
• Paper color and texture. Again, a hugely important element to concept integration and harmony, as it is the thing every customer will touch and feel unless it’s encased in plastic. Like the fonts, paper color and texture should match the restaurant’s personality. Is the concept earthy and emphasizing sustainability? It is funky and hip? Elegant and refined?
A printer can also help a restaurant customer choose the right ink color for a specific paper type and color so that the ink stands out on the page. It is also helpful if the paper is robust and can withstand a bit of handling before becoming unusable.
• Paper size. A printer can guide you to the appropriate paper size by considering some of the following: How big are the tables? How many items must be crammed on the paper? Is it a two-sided menu, or does it require three panels? Do you place food on one menu and beverages on another? Should they be on the same type and size of paper?
• Spacing of content. Give the reader some white space. Some menus are so crammed with copy that a customer can barely read them. Remember, the menu is the restaurant’s greatest marketing tool and will be seen and touched by virtually every customer, so make the most of it.
Printers should alert operators when they see that they will have to use a smaller font and tighter spacing just to fit all the copy on the page. Though the responsibility of writing crisp, clean, accurate and descriptive copy falls to the operator or his assigned copy writer, the printer must suggest when copy should be reduced for readability.