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8 Tips on Designing a Lunch Menu for Your Restaurant

You’ve got a great location for your restaurant and are doing a great dinner business, but lunch is just so-so. What’s going on? How can you attract a profitable lunch crowd?

There are two factors that influence a customer’s choice to visit your restaurant at lunchtime. First, most people are not able to give time to a leisurely lunch. Second, customers expect a variety of options for lunch that consider cost and dietary needs.

Thoughtfully plan your menu for these two factors. Then, take a serious look at what you are offering on your lunch menu. 

Getting customers to come back to your restaurant for your lunches requires a proper menu design. Here are tips on designing a lunch menu for your restaurant.

1. Regional Preferences

Let’s face it: the location of your restaurant has an enormous impact on what you should offer for lunch.

It may seem like common sense to offer seafood if you are located on the waterfront or barbecue in southern states. You may be surprised at how often restaurants fail because they do not take regional preferences seriously enough. 

You may have the best recipes handed down from generations. Yet, if you are in a region that is known for particular types of food, you better do your homework and include these items.

2. Your Specialties

Are you known in the area for a great sauce or the best soups? Maybe your restaurant is where everyone flocks for great steak dinners.

If you are finding success from items on your dinner menu, offer smaller portions on the lunch menu at affordable prices.

Consider doing some research on your customers’ preferences by introducing new recipes on a specials flyer. Pin it to the lunch menu.  

3. Know Your Customers

It’s important to update your lunch menu at least once per year. It will save you on food costs.

Why continue to order food that no one is ordering? It’s a waste that will cost you in both dollars and potential customers.

If you are monitoring your food inventory closely, you will see what items need to be eliminated. Instruct your wait staff to monitor portions that are being left on plates. Listen to their observations at staff meetings.

If you are lucky enough to have regular lunch customers, find opportunities to talk to them. Do you know if they have special diets? Offering healthier lunches may have new customers lining up at the door and happy regulars spreading the word.

Successful restaurants have been in business for years and they know their customers.

Check out this burger and sandwich restaurant. They have been in business for over 30 years and specialize in great burgers. Note their special diets and nutrition menus.

4. Easy to Prepare

Your menu’s lunch selection needs to feature easy to prepare items. Working people are in a hurry, as the average lunch break is 35 minutes. 

How often do you think people decide not to return to a restaurant because they end up late returning to work? 

5. Descriptive Language

Get your adjectives on! Avoid being overly wordy in your item descriptions and take advantage of adjectives that pack a punch in describing your options for lunch.

Here are some descriptive words that may entice a mouth-watering response:

  • Savory
  • Hearty
  • Nutritious
  • Satisfying
  • Delicious
  • Sensible
  • Wholesome
  • Plentiful
  • Succulent
  • Refreshing

You get the idea: keep it short but attract the palette. If you offer items that are spicy, customers like to know just how much heat to expect. Including it in the menu will save your wait staff time answering questions.

6. Photography

Your lunch menu design ideas should include your best photos of meals that are profitable or difficult to describe. Photos are great restaurant marketing strategy tools if they are done correctly.

Avoid using too many photos. Remember the time factor for lunch customers.

Often, rushed customers will quickly scan a menu for what looks good. A lack of white space in the menu will also create frustration and make a menu difficult to read.

Stage your food items in good lighting that captures layers, portion sizes, and freshness. The goal is to quickly satisfy your customer with a photo that entices them to order.

7. Placement of Items

Research indicates there is a Golden Triangle and other patterns for how customers look at a menu.

When customers open a menu, they browse. They start by taking it all in with a pause in the middle. Eyes then move to the upper right and decision making begins as they look to the upper left.

Most Profitable 

Your most profitable lunch items are not necessarily the most expensive. They are what is selling well. This is where your inventory and customer knowledge comes into play.

So where should you list your most profitable food items? You guessed it! List them in the upper left corner. 

Sides

List sides below your most profitable items. Why? Remember the time factor. Customers often grab sides only for lunch when in a hurry. 

Make the most of this time need by offering sides that are easy to transport as carry-outs and are also quick to prepare.

Specialties

Your restaurant’s specialties are items that are unique to your brand. Feature them on the upper right portion of the lunch menu.

As the customer views your menu, they will see familiar favorites in the top left when they begin to make decisions. The eyes then roam to the top right for unique items.

Beverages

Customers often just ask wait staff about soda products and beer choices. Unless you offer specialty beverages, these items are best left to the back of the menu. 

Kids Menu

Items for children should also be featured on the back of the menu. Since children are in school, lunch guests are usually adults.

That does not mean that you shouldn’t do your research about what appeals most to children. Weekends can be very profitable for lunch. Many families enjoy taking their children out for lunch rather than dinner because children become tired in the evening. 

Daily Lunch Specials

If you are going to offer daily lunch specials, these must be printed separately. Listing daily specials on a board outside of your restaurant is a good idea for attracting customers.

Having them with the regular lunch menu helps those of us that forget details as soon as we are seated. Attach your printed list to the daily lunch menu or feature them in a stand on the table.

8. Graphic Design

The exciting part; there are so many options to consider! Think color, font, borders, and how to arrange those delicious photos.

If you are a DIY enthusiast, check out Canva for templates and easy-to-follow directions for creating your lunch menu. You can also hire freelancers to follow your menu design ideas and print your lunch menu.

Color Psychology

Color has an impact on our senses. Color psychology is important to your lunch menu because the goal is to entice your customers to make purchases.

A word of caution is needed. Do not sacrifice the image of your brand to satisfy colors that increase the appetite. If your restaurant has a low-key atmosphere, the last thing you want to do is use bold colors found in many fast food logos.

Muted tones of orange and yellow can have the same effect on increasing the appetite while giving a calming feel.

Green may be associated with freshness, but if your restaurant design leans toward neutral colors and elegant seating, a splash of green font or borders may feel unsettling.

Font Design and Size

Choose a font design that reflects the theme or atmosphere of your restaurant. Steer away from cursive writing. Studies show that many Millenials have not been taught this lost art of writing.

The color of the font used in headings and item descriptions is important. Keep in mind that many people struggle with pastel colors unless backed by a darker background on the menu.

A good idea is to use the darkest color from your brand logo for lettering. If it is not easy on the eyes, deepen the color. 

A font size of 12 for headers and 10 for descriptions and pricing will work well for the average customer. 

Brand-Worthy Borders

Borders are effective for identifying sections of your lunch menu. Use borders to visually move your customer’s eyes from one category to another easily. 

Match borders to reflect your brand and restaurant theme. For a vibrant atmosphere, choose borders in 8px and bold colors. For an elegant feel, ditch the cursive font and focus on sweeps and curves in 4px for the border.

Continue to Build Your Customer Base

We hope you have found the information in this article useful for developing your lunch menu. With our tips, you’ll be well on your way to success!

Check out our blog regularly for useful tips for increasing your customer base and offering the most delicious foods your customers will love.