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Restaurant Menu Items List - Must Have Items

Conal Yarwood-Frost
14 Nov 2022

Restaurant menus are very often labors of love for chefs. Each item and ingredient is carefully considered and tested. A restaurant menu, when done correctly, is a true expression of a chef's tastes and passion for food.

A thoughtful and well-designed restaurant menu can make the difference between a great restaurant and an outstanding one. Your menu is often the first thing your customers see and informs how they interact with your restaurant. This makes the restaurant menu a very important part of your marketing strategy.

In this blog, we'll be exploring the subject of restaurant menus in detail. We’ll include interesting restaurant menu ideas, restaurant menu design, and ways you can get customers coming into your business with mouth-watering menu items.

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How to design restaurant menus

The physical design of a menu is often overlooked in restaurants as restauranteurs focus on questions like "how much does it cost to open a restaurant?" For some chefs and restauranteurs, a restaurant menu is a simple list of the dishes on offer with the restaurant pricing on the side. The impression this gives guests isn't great, as it implies that the restaurant doesn't care about their food. While this isn't always the case, good menu design is important and helps attract customers.

While there aren't any rules set in stone about what makes a good restaurant menu design, there are some general factors that you should consider. We've compiled a short list of the factors we think go into creating a perfect menu design that will entice new guests into your restaurant.

Highlight your most profitable dishes

Food, labor, and insurance are three of the biggest expenses for restaurants. These expenses and the tight profit margins most restaurants work on make it important to encourage your customers to order your most profitable dishes. Ideally, your most profitable dish is also your most popular with guests; simple design tricks can make this happen.

When you're placing your dishes on your menu, try to place them in the "golden triangle". The golden triangle is a design trick that leads your customers' eyes over the menu in a specific way. It says that people generally start looking at a menu in the middle before moving to the top right and then the top left.

The golden triangle should influence where you put your most profitable menu items in the middle and at the top of your design. This principle can also work to improve the popularity of menu items you want to push. Put the dish in the middle of your menu and watch as it quickly becomes your most popular menu item.

Use branding to express your restaurant's identity

Building a brand is an important part of running your restaurant. Consumers are more brand-minded than ever and good branding will allow you to stand out from the crowd. You should already have an identity in mind when you start your business and you should apply this identity to your restaurant menu.

Your entire menu should reflect your restaurant's theme. For example, if your restaurant uses a specific color scheme, your menu should be printed in those colors. You should also consider the audience your restaurant serves. The menus in upscale restaurants look completely different from menus in the average Tex-Mex joint for a reason. As we've mentioned above, the menu is often the first thing your customers see and first impressions are everything.

Think about your photographs

The question of whether or not to include photographs of your food in your menu is a contentious one. Some customers appreciate seeing your restaurant menu items before they order them while others consider photos as a sign of a lower-quality establishment.

In practice, there is a divide when it comes to photos in online menus and static menus. If you have an online menu on your website or on delivery apps, including photos can help your guests visualize your food and drive orders. In-person, most restaurants won't include photos on their static menu as guests don't appreciate it.

Photographs are a great example of how different types of restaurants approach their static menu design. In a fast-casual chain or a fast-food chain, photos can help drive sales numbers. In fancier establishments, it will do the opposite and drive customers away. If you do want to show off your food, you could feature a restaurant menu item each week on your social media.

Market with your restaurant menu

The static menu in your restaurant is just as much as a salesperson as your wait staff and your marketers. Whether it's a seasonal menu or your usual a la carte menu, you should be using it as a tool to entice your guests into your establishment. There are many different restaurant menu ideas you can use to drive sales numbers.

Some great restaurant menu ideas you can use range from simple to complex. Featuring profitable local dishes in prominent positions on your menu is an easy way to pique the interests of your guests. Ensuring your online menu has easy navigation and an understandable layout (appetizers to the left of the main course options for example) can also have a big effect on your sales.

On the more complex side of things, restaurant menu engineering can be very effective in getting dishes out in front of customers.

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Restaurant menu ideas

Now you know what to consider when designing your menu, it's time to populate it with delicious food options. The food you serve depends on a few different factors. Your location, the cuisine you serve, and the type of restaurant you operate. You also want to make sure that you're not including too many items on your menu as this will clutter the design and overwhelm your customers.

Fast casual fast food items

Fast food may seem simple at first but there are actually many different types of chains that all sell different cuisines. There are also fast-casual chains that offer a completely different experience.

Nation-wide chains like Burger King and Five Guys Burgers have simple menus. These restaurants serve the staples of American fast food including burgers and french fries.

Some fast food places that serve "American food" specialize or are known for certain items. For example, Chick Fil A is known for its chicken sandwich. Mcdonald's fries and Five Guys fries are also generally considered superior to other fast food fries.

In a fast casual restaurant, the menus will be served on plates and you'll be able to sit for an hour or two while you finish your food. A spicy chicken sandwich from Chick Fil A may be replaced by a grilled chicken sandwich. While Burger King may use American cheese slices, a fast casual restaurant may use Monterey jack cheese.


In cities and towns across the country, delis keep the workforce fed during lunchtime. In a deli, you can generally expect to find items like sandwiches and paninis. Delis will also offer coffee and other hot drinks to go with your sandwich. Some will also have a dessert section with cakes and sweet pastries.

Fine dining

In the world of fine dining, customers expect a higher level of service and quality. In a restaurant like Nobu, each menu item will be poured over by a team of highly trained staff to ensure that they provide the perfect meal.

While upscale establishments are serving a wide variety of meals, French cuisine is often considered the be-all-end-all. While times are changing, many fine dining chefs will earn their qualifications by studying Frech cuisine and some of the best cookery schools in the world are based in France.

In a fine dining restaurant, you could expect to find well-loved dishes such as Boeuf Bourguignon, Coq Au Vin, Cassoulet, and Chicken Cordon Bleu. French cooking is a course-based experience. Meat plays a big role in French cooking.

The perfect POS for your restaurant

Now that you have solid menu ideas to apply to your establishment, its time to invest in a point of sales, or POS system that works for you. The Epos Now Restaurant POS system is designed with restauranteurs in mind and is full of innovative features.

Epos Now provide both hospitality POS and retail POS systems that help businesses boost profits and boost sales. Our hospitality systems offer a payment process service, a suite of award-winning apps, and staff and table management tools.

If you'd like to know more about Epos Now, get in touch with our expert team below. 

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