How Restaurant Menu Design is Changing

A photo of a woman looking at a menu
As a result of strict new limitations and restrictions due to COVID-19, restaurant menu design is evolving rapidly so that restaurants can continue to provide decent service.

While practically every business is being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant industry has been hit especially hard. In cities and states where restaurants are open, they are usually under strict limitations when it comes to capacity and other safety issues. As a result of these new restrictions, restaurant menu design is evolving rapidly so that restaurants can continue to provide decent service. These changes allow restaurants to limit their inventory, take some pressure off employees and adhere to best health and safety practices.

One of the main shifts you will see with restaurant menu design is that they are moving away from shareable appetizers and meals to an appetizer, entrée and dessert model. Typically, dining out is an experience that allows you to enjoy some good food with friends and family. Sharing dishes allows everyone to try more items and adds to the communal spirit of dining out. However, this type of interaction is being discouraged in the wake of COVID-19. As a result, restaurant menu design is changing to reflect this and you will see more multi-course options on the menu.

Scaling Back Menus

Restaurants are also trying to save money and limit the amount of inventory on hand by cross-utilizing ingredients. Scaling back the menu also takes some of the pressure off employees. With kitchens that aren’t fully staffed, handling an extensive menu can be challenging. By limiting ingredients and the number of dishes, employees can continue to maintain quality standards. 

New restaurant menu design is also focusing on less expensive items. The economy has suffered tremendously because of the pandemic. Many people are out of work and uncertainty about job security has people tightening their purse strings. They are less likely to spend frivolously on expensive meals. If they do decide to dine out or order take-out, they are looking for good deals and affordable meals. Restaurants are responding with menus full of lower priced options.

One of the surprising benefits of having to scale back menus is that restaurants have been able to gain more insight into what their customers truly like and want. This valuable market data is allowing restaurants to focus on popular items and eliminate those dishes that just don’t sell. Now they are able to create streamlined restaurant menu designs that generate maximum revenue and reduce excess inventory.

Restaurant Menu Design for Take-Out Menus

Another menu trend that has emerged as a result of COVID-19 is take-out menus. These menus not only feature popular items, but dishes that can be easily packaged and will travel well. Oftentimes, these menus are available online through the website or QR codes. This approach also eliminates the need for reusable or disposable menus and reduces the chance that germs will be spread. While new product development might be paused, restaurants can capitalize on take-out items.

For restaurants, surviving the pandemic is going to require that they are flexible, scalable and adaptable. Circumstance and restrictions will continue to evolve and it is important to work to find solutions that allow restaurants to meet health and safety standards while also attracting customers and generating revenue. Making various changes to menus is essential to addressing consumer behavior and meeting the needs of employees.


What kind of items are not going to be on menus now?
Expect to see fewer shareable items as menus shift to focusing on sandwiches, salads and simply entrees.

How is the current economy affecting restaurant menu design?
Consumers are less likely to splurge on an expensive meal. That is why you will see menus with more affordable options.

How is consumer behavior changing the way menus are curated?
Consumer behavior is revealing which menu items are popular and worth keeping and which should be removed. People aren’t necessarily trying new things, but sticking with their favorites. This provides valuable data that is helping restaurants curate menus.

How do restaurants adapt to takeout menus?

Restaurants are removing menu items that aren’t easy to package and won’t travel well and focusing on popular items. A smaller menu is much easier for employees to handle. Takeout menus are also full of simple dishes since interruptions in the supply chain are to be expected.



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