Help with my menu - it's a mess.

Here is the latest version:

I had a neighbor who was a marketing professional (and now a stay at home mom) help me conduct 3 focus sessions of 10 people each over the weekend. The menu was a train wreck among the groups. My designer is better at graphic design than she is at menu design, so I’m hoping you guys can give me some direction. At the risk of tainting your opinions, the biggest issues seemed to be:

  1. The pizza grid is to hard to read.
  2. The color of the copy (black) is primary to the item titles (which are yellowish).
  3. The watermarks are too dark.
  4. The pictures are cheesy (I agree).

Any other thoughts or thoughts about how to correct it would be appreciated (please feel free to be very critical because I have no ego invested in this menu design). Thanks ,

Patrick Cuezze
Next Door Pizza

just a couple of quick comments

  1. colors need to be consistent - there’s too many in my opinion - so go with 2 or 3.
  2. why not go for the ‘add 2.00 for thin crust’ or along those lines - would solve the grid
  3. what is the key focus for your menu? if its pizza then let that section stand out more than the others. At the moment its too busy and the pizza bit is getting lost.

hope these comments help.

I assume this is your takeout menu.

  1. Your contact information is hidden on the back page at the bottom. Very hard to get customers to call you if you make your number hard to find.
  2. Dollar signs ($) in a menu generally are not a good idea. A dollar sign conveys a higher price in the customers mind.
  3. Your pictures are not the best. people will look at pictures before words, photos before drawings, colored pictures before monocrome.

I am by no means an expert so take this for what it is worth.

Imo, you should just start from scratch. Its really not about just fixing something here or there.

Overuse of bold colors.
Overuse of bold type.
Pictures – you know.
Nothing stands out.
Background too dark and distracting.
Every title listed twice???
It’s disjointed to read.
How do you fold it? or you don’t?

I keep a draw full of other businesses marketing materials for reference. Find one you like and ask your designer to mimic it. Obviously you don’t want it to be the same but it wouldn’t come out that way even if you asked. Its like giving one of your recipes to someone. It would still come out different.

PS I stark white background is tough to do. I’ve seen it done but most of the time a colored background comes across warmer and more inviting to read – especially for food.

Pizzapirate - I tend to agree with you about starting over…

I actually did give her a menu to go on - Chili’s. But I think she only captured the low points :cry:

You guys have given me some real obvious solutions (like just pricing the deep dish $2.00 more across the board; No white background; overuse of colors (amazingly so))

I’m considering letting someone like adeas redesign it as part of the printing. Anyone had good or bad experiences with handling menu design that way?

BTW, this was my dine-in menu printed out at 11x17 and trifolded.

If I’m understanding you correctly, you thinking of having it designed by your printer? That should at least give you something more standard and professional.

Unless you want to spend some big bucks, I’d take a look at

This is just what I observe, I’m not a menu designer:

When printed out the watermark really isn’t too bad.

If you like the colors, either outline them in black or do black printing and outline with the color.

Outlining (boxes) draw your eye to that area. I like the pizzas and toppings being in the box, but the history of the doors, although interesting, is not making me spend any money and that’s the first thing my eyes are going to.

when you first open the menu—the beverages are the first thing you see. I would have that sandwiches and pasta or close the door items and put the beverages on the back page.

Titles listed twice, I can live with because it does separate the items, but all of them being on the left except the pasta one?

I don’t know if you printed this yet, but you will want to give yourself a little more space for folding.

Hi Patrick,

For some more ideas…our October newsletter includes menu design tips, and a link to a video interview with menu engineer Greg Rapp. The interview’s a couple of years old, but very good. To take a look, go here, and select the Oct 2009 issue from the dropdown menu.


One question was - if this is a take out menu then how do you fold it?

Always put your phone number & website on the Front also your hours is helpful (to me anyway - I want to know if I can pick up a pizza a 10pm or not)

Need to line up the sizes with the dollar amounts - center the sizes

the pizza is all out of alignment
the photos are to dark - i would delete them altogether - no added value.
The logo is good.
I like the door concept - that is a cool idea!

You should ask a few color blind people to look at your mock-up before printing. I see colors well, but I think some who are color blind, depending on what they see, will have trouble with your samples. I think some of the copy might not stick out against the background images.

Some good menu design tips that I use, and good samples here … eting.html

Here’s the proof of version 2.0. I don’t necessarily love the pastelly color scheme. But I think it’s a big improvement. Any input?

Well it does look better. More organized and easier to read. It doesn’t really make me hungry though. I would get rid of the front door hanger picture and replace it with a beautiful, delicious pizza that will make your customers mouth water and want to open your menu, pick their pizza, and call you. Better make your phone number bigger too! :smiley:

Yes much better but there’s still something missing.

I think the door panels make it hard to ready. Maybe you’d be better with plain doors and use boxes around your menu sections as the door panels.

I see you sell half bottles of wine!! :roll:

I am a menu designer for a PH franchise. Are you going for a look without a bleed to reduce costs?
If not, I would suggest using bolder borders. I totally agree that the light brown background art (which I’m assuming would print pretty light) is a little too much…I’m not a big fan of background art unless it’s on an obvious “Background”, but since you have not used a background it looks a little distracting. Want me to mock one up for you? I am looking for more freelance work in the pizza world, and I can produce VERY quickly. Also, being in Kansas, I can get some really good printing quotes. We can talk hourly rates if you’re interested…but I would definitely think simplicity. There is a lot of buzz in the restaurant world about using menus as a marketing tool, but I feel this information is much too closely related to the Applebees, Chilis, Old Chicago model. KEEP IT SIMPLE. When I think of any Indy that I frequent, their menus are paper with words…THAT’S IT. Anyways…good luck. PRODUCT PRODUCT PRODUCT

I agree with most everything everyone else has said, and aside from some messy typography and spacing I think the first version is MUCH better than your second.

I think that the first version will say better things about you and your business

I love the bites out of things, thats a cool touch, but I’d keep the colors consistent.

I’d steer away from pictures in the menu like chili’s or any other chain restaurant. I wouldn’t look to them for much more than organization of information.

Also printing on a off white paper could really bring out some warmth and allow you to drop the ‘watermarks’.

I also dig the logo. I wouldn’t frame the story but I would keep it. People need reasons to care about you then they’ll have more reasons to go back to you. There is a kind of dry but really great book on the subject called, Emotional Design.

A good graphic designer will be a good menu designer.

Projects that tend to really shine have a solid plan; design, by definition, is a plan to create.
Important elements include:
» definition of brand (who, what, where, why and hows)
» research (competitors, visual styles, voice)
» strategy (how to communicate the brand definition)
» written and visual communication (the design itself)
» iteration (third time’s a charm for a reason)

Stay away from 99designs, and don’t look to your printer for design. As a designer myself, you may expect me that reply but I’m say it because people come to me to fix what they’ve gotten from these providers. I’m not convinced it’d be much better than what you have.

Just my two cents, I made some quick notes that should help your menu perform better. Like Nick, I’m willing to quote if you’re interested in more help.

Best of luck

I think that the first version will say better things about you and your business

Thanks for all the comments. I think the quote above totally summarizes my feelings. The first version incorporates my design elements and vision in a way the second doesn’t. It portrays a hipper 70’s-retro that the latter is totally lacking. However, my potential customers agree with you designers almost universally. My theory is that the 2nd menu is what they have been trained to see at applebees/chilis/etc. (In defense of the 2nd menu, it certainly draws the eyes to places I want eyes to be drawn in a way the 1st doesn’t even approach).

So I’m at somewhat of a loss - do I go with what my customers say they want, or what I want to convey to the customers (customers be-damned).

Lastly, I’m supposed to open February 1, so I went ahead and ordered 75 of these menus just to open. Htref, you have PM.

Thanks again for all your help guys. I’m pretty excited about my new career!