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Menu Design tips to boost your bottom line

Posted on June 24, 2019

Menu Design and Presentation tips that help boost your bottom line

  • Your menu plays an important role in influencing repeat business and the choices of your first-time as well as regular customers
  • As such, it must appropriately reflect the impression you want your business to evoke
  • Consider how you’ll group items together — for example a pasta section with entrée and main prices, or recommendations for wines to accompany certain dishes
  • Menu descriptions should make the food sound appetising and appealing, but avoid making exaggerated claims

When considering your menu, it’s important to bear in mind that for first-time customers it’s their point of introduction to your food. Before they taste it, before they even see it, the menu offers them an overview of what’s on offer.

Your menu also plays a role in influencing repeat business and the choices of your regular customers. Appealing menu descriptions can encourage customers to try new foods for the first time; can persuade them to order more courses than they originally intended; and can help to create a strong brand presence for your business.

Of course there’s a lot more to the menu than just the words you use to describe your food. There’s its overall presentation — from the way it’s designed to the choice of typeface and type of paper or board used. And then there’s the choice of food itself — making sure you have enough variety to cater to a broad range of customer tastes and even dietary requirements.

That’s why it’s critically important to ensure your menu appropriately reflects the impression you want your business to evoke in the mind of your customer.

In sitting down to compose your menu, you need to first ensure that all meals have been appropriately priced, by costing out the ingredients in accordance with specified portion size, with labour, staffing and other operational costs factored in. That enables you to ensure consistency of cost per serve and determine appropriate profit margins per unit, by which you arrive at the final retail price per item.

An old rule of thumb used in restaurant and café businesses is to strive for a four-way split — from the first quarter of menu item delivering the highest profit margins, to the final quarter delivering the lowest. Dropping the retail price for popular items will give you a smaller profit margin on them, but this is offset by the fact that the more popular the item, the more sales it generates. And having a quarter of menu items at the lower end of your pricing scale ensures there are affordable choices for a broader range of customers.

Once you’ve determined your range of meals and their prices, you then need to consider how you’ll group items together. We all know the basic format of appetizers, entrees, mains, desserts, sides and beverages but some contemporary businesses are experimenting with different ways of presenting and grouping the food.

For many businesses presenting Italian style food, pizza and pasta have their own menu sections, with customers given a selection of pizza sizes as well as entrée and main sized pasta dishes. Similarly you can offer a special section for seniors or children’s meals, a banquet section or two or three course set menu which includes a glass of wine, coffee and/or aperitif/digestiv.

You might also want to try matching food with wine or even boutique beers on the menu — suggesting particular whites or reds as desirable accompaniments to particular dishes can sway a customer into ordering a beverage.

As mentioned earlier, appealing menu descriptions are important in selling your food. By all means make the food sound appetising and appealing, but avoid making exaggerated claims, as these may lead to customer disappointment. The main focus is to give an accurate description of presentation style and flavour profile — the customer wants to know what to expect.

When it comes to the graphic design and presentation of the menu card itself, choose an approach and style that’s in keeping with your overall business ambience and branding. The layout should be clean and above all easy to read — and remember not all customers have perfect eyesight, so avoid ornate typefaces and small point sizes!

Another important formatting point is to avoid listing your prices in one column so they line up. There is a good reason not to do this — it makes it too easy for customers to compare prices and choose the cheapest item, and you want them to choose according to quality and taste rather than cost.

The fact that the menu groups your dishes together on the printed page underscores the need to offer a similar amount of each style of food item. In other words, your customers want to be able to choose from a similar number of entrees, mains, desserts and sides.

Finally, whether you’re getting your menu professionally typeset and printed or doing it yourself, be sure to always check it over thoroughly before signing off on the finished product. No matter how careful you’ve been, mistakes can and do slip through — so ask someone else to cast their eye over it as well, as that can save embarrassment and the cost of reprinting!

Article originally published by Fonterra Foodservice 2017