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Menus, Marketing, & Management tips to grow your restaurant business.


Cafe Menu Layout

Take some time to consider these variables when layng out your cafe menu.

A cafe menu is an important intermediary between you and your clientele. At the most basic level, a cafe menu identifies the food and beverages available to the customers. But a well-designed, well-laid out menu does much more; it describes its items, fosters the desire to purchase and consume, reinforces brand image, and boosts sales.

Subtlety Goes a Long Way

Consumers don't particularly like marketing efforts that are outright assaults on their senses. While a cafe menu is a marketing tool, don't presume this to mean it must grab potential patrons by the collar and shake them to get their attention. Loud colors, crazy fonts, excessive imagery, busy pages, and other superficial attempts to seize attention are gaudy and off-putting. Use one to three colors sparingly. Print text in no more than three different fonts that are easy and large enough to read. Keep art and photographic images to a minimum. Employ negative space to prevent a cluttered appearance. A calm, classy, airy menu helps put patrons at ease and keeps the focus on the fare.

How Should the Menu Be Categorized?

It's easy to get caught up in how to categorize a menu. Do breakfast dishes all go together, or should egg-based meals be grouped in their own section? Does seafood stand alone, or go in with poultry? The answer is mostly a function of the size and variety of your menu. If you're famous for selling ten variations on eggs Benedict, put them in their own section. If you offer only two seafood dishes, they don't warrant their own section. Seek balance with categories that are comparable in size.

What Gets Top Billing in Each Menu Category?

Standard menu engineering places the most profitable item from each category first in the section. This is effective, and certainly better than the common practice of starting with the most basic item and working up to the more complex or out of the ordinary. However, this isn't necessarily the best way to use the menu to differentiate your cafe from the competition or to promote interest in your offerings.

Make the first entry in each category a unique or uncommon item. Why be like everyone else, leading off sections with coffee and house salad-caliber items? If your cafe faces tough competition and you don't have anything interesting to lead off your menu sections, get to work. Experiment with your espresso machine and flavored syrups with your employees. Come up with something tasty and different, name it after your establishment or something with local relevance, and list it at the top of the menu's caffeinated beverages section.

Don't Omit Descriptions

Often, menus merely list food and drinks. This doesn't distinguish your establishment, doesn't demonstrate an interest in your fare, doesn't entice, and simply doesn't make good use of the menu as a marketing tool. Identify items for sale, then follow up with a few descriptive sentences. While it is helpful to note main ingredients, go further. Indulge the senses a bit, addressing the way your fare looks, feels, or makes people feel as they consume it. If your offerings stand out, show it on the menu.

As for description with imagery, don't rely on it too heavily. Unless you have professional-quality photographs of dishes that truly deserve graphic representation, skip the photos. For menus in more casual establishments, a few illustrations or clipart images can draw the eye to different sections or help conjure sensations like cooling down or warming up with appropriate beverages or meals.

Attention to laying out your cafe menu is essential to optimizing its effectiveness as a marketing tool. A well-designed menu tempts the public by being different in appearance as well as indulgent, letting the fare it represents do the selling without relying on ostentatious display.

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