When you walk into a restaurant there are a few things you ask yourself right away. Does this look like a place I want to eat at? How long will I have to wait? What kind of experience will I have here? If the establishment seems to be reputable and enticing as well as in line with your taste buds you will proceed and wait to be seated.
Once you are shown to your table the waiter or waitress provides you with a menu so you can pick what particular dish you wish to eat. This is a crucial step in the dining experience because it shows you what kind of selection they have, how the different dishes are organized and what specials are showcased.
Having an intuitive and simple menu can make the customer experience much better while having an overly complicated menu can make it difficult to decide what to eat. But there are other ways in which a menu communicates to the customer what the restaurant really is. Here are five of them:
1. Credibility - Just like walking into a restaurant that is decrepit and stale, opening up a menu that's falling apart, designed poorly or simply outdated leaves a bad impression. In contrast, a menu that is clean, sleek and aesthetic brings credibility. If you can't trust the restaurant to put together and maintain quality menus then you probably won't be able to trust them with your food. It might even be the case that the restaurant you're frequenting only has paper menus or a handwritten board at the front. This may work for some people, but it could also turn many others off.
2. Quality - The materials used for the menu and its overall presentation communicate the quality of the restaurant to the customer. If it is a more casual family restaurant or dive bar then the menus will likely be of lower quality such as a laminated stock menu. If it is a five-star restaurant noted for its ambience then the menus will probably be made of leather and bound with a foil stamped finish. The important thing is that your menus reflect whether your restaurant is high-end or a low-end. Having menus that don't fit in with your level of quality will only confuse customers.
3. Customer Experience - Besides the service that a customer receives from the hostess and server, the menu is how that customer experiences the restaurant before the food arrives. Things such as the number of items, organization of items and the ease of navigation all depend on the menu. Restaurants committed to providing the customer with a positive and relaxing experience will make sure that it's easy to go through their selection and choose an appropriate dish without being overwhelmed. Other details like noting allergens, nutritional information and availability help make the customer more knowledgeable.
4. Commitment to Branding - When your business has customers coming to your physical establishment, it is crucial to create an atmosphere that shouts the brand. A restaurant that wants to be a fun, quirky place where people can enjoy experimental food needs to show that concept throughout the space. Things like bright colored walls, eclectic decor and out of the box furnishings add to the experience of the restaurant. Taking it one step further and making the menus an extension of the brand demonstrates your commitment and makes everything in the restaurant enjoyable. Think of a martini shaped menu for a cocktail bar. That shows off the brand and leaves a much better impression than a simple brown menu.
5. Attention to Detail - What often separates a great, bustling restaurant from a place that just serves good food is the attention to detail. Everything in the space is unique from the silverware and lights to the bathroom signs. That level of diligence tells customers that you are very deliberate and focused on every aspect of the restaurant like every ingredient in a dish. It creates confidence and shows that nothing goes by unnoticed. Putting out menus that are well designed demonstrates how aware you are of every little detail and your commitment to making it all perfect. It's the small things after all that make people eat out instead of dine in.