Your coffeehouse menu design says as much about you as your choice of clothes. Are you clean, polished and easy to read, or frumpy and a bit disheveled?
Use the following guidelines when creating your menu and you’ll be sure to make a positive first impression:
1. Graphics/Imagery. Use your logo and brand colors to tie your menu to your brand. Avoid photos—they're time consuming and don't often look great on a printed menu. If you must use photos, they should be beautiful and professionally done. Food photography isn't easy, despite its ubiquity on Instagram. It requires proper lighting to keep your scones and latte art from looking tired and flavorless.
Always steer clear of clip art, which will only make your menu look like it’s meant for a middle-school cafeteria. If graphic design isn't your strong suit, hire a designer to create one that reflects your professionalism and aesthetic. Besides, if you try to do it yourself it could take endless hours and not look nearly as good.
2. Fonts. Simple and highly readable are the rule here. Stay away from cursive, all-bold or all-capitalized text. 12- to 14-point font is a good range for easy reading.
3. Use friendly, direct language. Before you start spewing coffee-geek terminology or highbrow culinary philosophy, consider how it will make your patrons feel. Even if you own a specialty coffee lover’s hangout or a fancy restaurant, your menu descriptions should be understandable to most of the people who walk in the door. A few well-placed terms like “single-origin” or “slow-brazed” will add flavor to your menu without alienating people. (And always make sure your staff is trained to answer any questions.)
4. Limit disclaimers. Menus often include a disclaimer or two at the bottom, in fine print. Things like: “gratuity will be added to parties of eight or more” or “two-for-one special not available on to-go orders.” These can save customers any unpleasant surprises—just keep them to a minimum. Your priorities should be to please and serve your customers, not to make them feel like a burden with lots of no-we-won’t language.
5. Please, do not laminate. If you print menus, invest in clear sleeves to protect them. These allow you to remove menus when they need to be updated or replaced due to wear and tear. Professional laminating (because we agree that do-it-yourself laminating looks cheap and tacky) will quickly get expensive anyway.
6. Proofread, then do it again. And have a second or third set of eyes look for typos, too, even your nightly specials. Also ask for brutal honesty. Have people weigh in on whether your menu is easy to read and understand, and if it makes your dishes sound appealing.
Check out the first story in this series: Your Café or Restaurant Menu, Part I: When, Why and How to Update It.