13 March

How to write a great menu

admin | Blog, Menu Development

“Heirloom,” “artisanal,” “black-label,” “locally-sourced,” “biodynamic,” “grass-fed”…you’ve probably heard these terms used on a menu and maybe even scratched your head on the meaning of a couple of them.

Menu descriptions are an extremely important aspect of a restaurant’s success. If you offer the dish, “Pad Thai,” you surely need to add more of a detailed description other than just “stir-fried noodles with chicken or shrimp.” An effective description would be something like, “Traditional, savory stir-fried rice noodles with crisp shrimp, scrambled-eggs, bean sprouts, and tofu, tossed with tangy tamarind sauce and crushed peanuts.” Not only does it include what is in the dish, but there are also adjectives like “tangy,” that can evoke intrigue, and hopefully some stomach growling!

As a restaurant owner, the last thing you want is for a guest to gloss over a great dish because they didn’t understand it. A successfully written menu item description, using a technique called “descriptive labeling,” has shown to greatly increase sales and guest ratings.

According to this NY Post article, a study where a control group was served “chocolate cake” while the other group was served the same dish with the name, “Black Forest Double Chocolate Cake”:

“Sales went up, taste ratings went up, ratings of the restaurant went up. It didn’t matter that the Black Forest isn’t even in Belgium.”


But what about some newly popular terms seen around restaurant menus across the nation such as “locally-grown,” “artisanal,” and “hand-crafted?” These terms have shown a surge in use due to the green and local movement as well as a technique for restaurants to convey a more home-made and rustic feel to their food. However, while many guests can enjoy a well-described and vivid explanation of a dish, some may be confused about what it means! So, how do you balance how to write a great menu that is descriptive, enticing, but at the same time, not confusing?

Here are some tips to help you write efficient restaurant menu item descriptions:

1)      Highlight the major ingredients used in the dish and any possible common allergens such as peanuts.

2)      Use interesting sensory adjectives. For example, “crisp,” “juicy,” “tender,” “smoked,” “zesty,” “savory,” tangy,” “creamy” and “crunchy.”

3)      Know your audience. If they health-conscious, use terms like “low-calorie,” “fresh, low-fat,” “low-sodium,” “low-carb,” “organic” and “heart healthy.” For green-movement guests, mention “organic,” “sustainable” and “locally-grown.”

4)      For some newer terms that many may still not understand, such as “biodynamic wines,” or “farm to table,” provide a small glossary on your menu that explains these terms.

If you’d like to evaluate the performance and effectiveness of your menu, contact our menu consultants at Synergy.

Blog, Menu Development