Menu ideas

Ten tips on making the most of your pub's menu

By Mark McCulloch

- Last updated on GMT

Aim to create a menu that is best in class
Aim to create a menu that is best in class

Related tags: Restaurant

Mark McCulloch, CEO & founder of creative brand and marketing agency We Are Spectacular, looks at whether your pub's menu is too wordy or too worthy?

I have a client who has just returned from New York and he came back saying rather sarcastically, ‘So, in America everyone’s Grandmother was the best cook, every food brand is honest and all ingredients are from 30 centimeters from the back door of the shop or restaurant….poppycock (or words to that effect)’. ‘My Grandmother put sprouts on as soon as she got up on a Sunday and boiled them til Sunday tea time.’

The truth is that most menus these days are starting to look  almost identical an some have became over complicated. Only someone with a Masters in English and geography can decipher what the heck the descriptions mean and why the customer should care, when they are simply trying to order something they like the sound of.

Like most things in life, we have overdone it a touch (or in steak/burger terms we have cremated it).

However, words are only part of the picture when you are suggesting what your food might be like, suggesting value for money and/or when trying to entice people to buy the bigger ticket items. The menu says so much more about what type of brand you are, the care you take when prepping/creating your food and overall, if your prices are (or at least seem) worth it.

Here are my top ten tips when producing your new or revitalised menu:

1​.Do it differently. Take a look at all of your competitors. Collect all of their menus and lay them out on a large table or the floor. Take a good look. What do you love, what do you hate, what do you find interesting and what does not ‘grab you’? Have you spotted a gap of where you could be different? How can you borrow all of the best bits and create a menu that is best in class?

2​.What stock, weight and colour of paper are you printing on? This is vital and although you need to think about costs, this says everything about what type of establishment you are.

3​.Never even laminate….ever! Your menus should be as fresh as your food (not processed using plastic). If there is even a speck of dirt on it. Throw it and produce a new one. As you would with any other spot of dirt that was anywhere near your food.

4​.Spelling matters…always. No excuses.

5​.Think about your main message. If it is about seasonal freshness, then have a daily menu that seems fresh with fresh messaging that perhaps talks about today’s weather, what’s in season this week. Or have a paragraph/illustration/images that showcases what you stand for in food/ingredients terms.

6​.Highlight your higher margin items with a call out box or some sort of stand out design/ specified area on the menu. Celebrate it on the page.

7​.Pick one hero item that is unique to you and highlight that. What is the one dish you want every one to talk about? If it is of a higher margin, then even better.

8​.Don’t make allergies or food preferences an afterthought. Ten million plus of us are vegetarian and god knows how many are intolerant to something or other. Help your customers to feel included and considered not alienated. Be forward thinking enough to think how your customer wants to be made to feel.

9​.Use the menu page to highlight what is coming soon either seasonally or in terms of must attend events that you are running.

10​.Have a well-designed menu that is not simply a list of dishes. My iconic menu is Quo Vadis (Soho’s old dame of a restaurant and bar). The design is simple but very effective. A bit of investment upfront has lasted them (for at least) the last three years. They simply took the time to consider how they should look and sound. Investment in getting it right upfront means that you will feel value ongoing for years to come.

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