Menu Writing Tips to Increase Your Profits

Learn how to increase sales and drive return customers for your restaurant with these proven menu writing and design techniques.

Your menu is your main and most important form of communication with your customers. The way you write, organize and design your menu can have a direct impact on your profit margins. Fortunately, there are tried and true menu writing and design techniques that have been proven to increase sales and drive return customers. Follow these tips to get the most out of your menu.

Top Menu Writing Tips to Keep in Mind

Consider the Size of Your Menu

Ultimately, a large menu is not in your best interest. Not only does an extensive selection put stress on the kitchen and produce food waste, more choices create anxiety in the customer. Keep in mind that 80% of food sales come from 16% of the menu items. According to research from Upserve, the ideal number of menu items is 7 appetizers, 7 entrees and 7 desserts. Stick to these numbers to maximize profits.

Pay Attention to Pricing

Remember that when you are looking at pricing items and menu writing, you need to focus on the gross profit rather than the actual cost of the item. You will want to promote foods that are going to bring you the biggest gross profit. 

Main Course and Appetizers

Main course options account for 50% of all food sales, so this is where you will want to make sure that you are able to earn the highest profits. If you can make significant money in this menu category, then you can use lower profit margin items, such as appetizers to earn customer loyalty. While selling appetizers may not make you rich, they are crowd-pleasers that keep people coming back and repeat business is essential to your success.


On that same note, desserts should be treated as less of a revenue driver and more of a tool to leave your customers with a positive experience. Instead of marking up desserts, market them with reasonable prices and people will have a delicious end to their meal that will leave them wanting more. 


When pricing your menu, don’t forget about beverages, which account for 35% of restaurant revenue. Out of all beverage sales47% are alcoholic drinks. Beer and wine offer the highest margin because they don’t require a lot of labor. Cocktails can involve multiple ingredients and an experienced mixologist. That doesn’t mean that you should shy away from cocktails. Just make sure that you are pricing them with margins in mind.

Ditch the Dollar Signs and Dotted Lines

Another great menu writing tip is to eliminate the use of dollar signs. Customers interpret the dollar sign as a “pain point,” so anything you can do to minimize this obstacle to purchasing will work in your favor. Stay away from using dotted lines to point from the item to the price. Instead, neatly embed the price in the description so that customers are more likely to skim over it and focus on the overall dish.

When it comes to writing menu item descriptions, more is better. Detailed descriptions are another way to draw customers in and get them to forget about price. For that reason, be sure to spend extra time and menu space on items with higher profit margins.

Each description should be full of adjectives that evoke feelings. Get creative with your language and try to avoid words like “delicious” when you can use “mouthwatering” instead. Not only does language encourage people to choose certain dishes, it also influences their enjoyment of the meal. According to a research study conducted by Cornell, “descriptive labeling increased sales by as much as 27%.” That can spell big profits for you, especially if you can convert high-margin items.

Consistency and Creativity

Your menu should reflect and support your restaurant’s mission and vision. That means that everything from the font and color scheme to the images and language should be chosen with your target audience in mind in your menu writing. You can always play it safe and go for a more neutral tone, but there can be big payoffs if you are willing to get creative with your design

For example, a sports pub may be able to have more fun with playful colors that would look out of place at a French Bistro. An upscale Italian restaurant will probably want to do with a more formal font than a burger joint. No matter what font you choose, make sure that it is easy to read.

Layout and Order

Menu design should also take advantage of white space to direct the reader’s attention. The eye is naturally drawn to white space and to the top right corner of any page. You could maximize profits by placing your highest margin item in a white box at the top of the menu.

When choosing the order of how you list items, always begin with the most expensive first. People will read from the top down and compare prices as they go. If you start with a $100 entree, the $50 menu item won’t see quite as steep. 


Finally, be sure to include the right amount of photos in your menu writing and design. A single photo next to a menu item can increase sales by 30%. That can make it tempting to feature a photo of every item, but you also want to be careful about overdoing it. Consider placing one photo per page and focus on promoting those high-margin items. 

Technology and Strategy

Menu writing and design should not be an afterthought. With so much research demonstrating which techniques and technologies work and how you can use design to improve sales, there is no reason not to use this information to your advantage. A simple menu rewrite can be enough to increase your sales and earnings. Implement these strategies to create a winning menu design.


How many items should be on the menu?

The best combination is 7 appetizers, 7 entrees and 7 desserts.

How do you price menu items to increase profit margins while keeping crowds coming back?

Most food sales come from main courses, so this is where you will want to create the highest margins. Pricing appetizers and desserts at a lower price point and dealing with a lower margin in this area is a great way to create a positive customer experience and keep them coming back for more.

How can descriptions and labels be used to improve perceived value?

Studies show that longer, more detailed menu item descriptions are more enticing and encourage people to assign more value to that item. You can use this menu writing tip to create especially effective descriptions for your highest margin items, which will increase your overall profits.

Why is the menu layout and design important?

The menu design makes a first impression with customers and should be used to highlight your brand. The design can also be used to draw the eye to certain items. White space and boxes can showcase high margin items and these items should also be placed at the top for maximum effect. All these design elements can influence what customers order. 



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