Understanding Restaurant Menu Design Psychology

Nov 11, 2019 | Menu Design, Restaurant Marketing, Restaurant Menu Design | 0 comments

When you next peruse the menu at your weekly restaurant spot, don’t just get the usual. Stop for a minute and look closely at the design of the menu and feel out what is eye-catching — this will help you in understanding restaurant menu design

Think of it as looking at a painting or photo where your eyes are drawn to the center or some other detail the way the artist has designed.

For the menu in front of you, try to view it through the same sort of unbiased lens as viewing art. You may notice some of the different eye-catching and drawing aspects of the art.

If you are designing a menu for your new restaurant or updating the menu to your current restaurant, understanding restaurant menu design and some of the psychology behind the way diners interact with a menu can be a huge help in getting the most out of every customer. The science behind designing different restaurant menus has been time-tested for every sort of food since the time menus were created

The Pillars of Modern Restaurant Menu Design

The Golden Ratio

Most people will use a certain eye pattern when it comes to viewing a menu. These will be the main sections of the menu. For single page menus that go vertically, it should be in the center, for menus that open horizontally they should be at the bottom of the first page under appetizers, and the next page should have the most profitable dishes.


One of the most important things to remember when understanding restaurant menu design is that people care about prices, so it is important to remove any currency symbols. An example would be to not list a dish like this: “Fried Oysters…..$9” Say, “Fried Oysters 9”. Or you can also spell out the cost like so: “Fried Oysters (nine)”, this has been proven to increase spending up to 25% because of the way the mind subconsciously perceives letters to numbers when spending.

Using Phraseology

You want your menu to create a sensory reaction and one way to do that is with words. When you make impossible claims like “the best piece of cheesecake on earth”, diners will tend to ignore that because it seems silly. But when you use different phrases that convey a taste or smell, you get the desired effect. Think of things like: tart, fragrant, hearty, silky, sublime, moorish, and so on. Doing this will help you in understanding restaurant menu design

People Love Their Childhoods

Inciting a feeling of nostalgia is a powerful way to sell a specific item or increase profit margins. An artfully written dish description can do just that: “Meat Lasagna just how mom used to make it”. “Grandpa’s favorite tart cherry pie”.

Limit Dish Options

Having an overly extensive menu is never a good idea. When people have too many choices, sometimes they find it hard to make a choice — people will be overwhelmed. Keep the number of items on the menu small and precise. From 5-7 dishes per area of the menu is a good rule of thumb.

Paper Or Material Quality

The feel of the menu will also have an impact on how people will choose items. If menus are old and worn down, this will diminish the value of the restaurant in the eyes of the customer and that means spending less. You can invest in high quality restaurant menu paper to really show off your dishes. Menu paper comes in many different styles, colors and materials so you will have many different design choices.

If you want to take it a step further, tear-proof waterproof menu paper will ensure your menus stay crisp and new all the time.

Using Space

Another to take into consideration when understanding restaurant menu design is that when a menu is overloaded the eye will tend to go to areas that do not have literal text. That can be used to your advantage by cleverly listing your most popular and profitable items in their own space entirely.

Have a border or space and the eye will be drawn to it, increasing how many people will look at those menu which will lead to more sales.


Color is an important component in restaurant menu psychology. When there is some green, the idea of healthy and fresh come into mind. Orange invites the appetite. Red is a trigger that encourages choice making and action, this can be used on your most profitable and popular items.


Menus should be tested. Draw up a few versions of the same menu, with some major differences like colors, fonts, persuasion and really test them for a month a piece. You’ll have a good idea at the end of those time periods of what is working and which one is more profitable.


Having a smaller wine list is smart as restaurant goers will not be too overwhelmed. Also, long descriptions of flavors and regions can leave diners feeling clueless. Limit the wine choices and list what they will pair with, and a brief description like: “smooth and mellow”, “full bodied with oak”.