10 Commandments for menu success.

In 1994 Chicago based restaurant consultant Allen H. Kelson wrote an article called “The ten commandments for menu success” referring to food menus. I have kept the title of each commandment and edited the description of each so it could be applied to beverage menus. I hope that you find it useful and please share your commandments and ideas with us.

1- Speak plainly.
The idea is to be straightforward and clear, avoid jargon or words in other languages that your guests wont understand. Use them only if it works for the concept; and still they have to promote sales without sounding intimidating, snobby or off putting.

2- Say what’s important.
Don’t forget to name characteristic flavors or preparations in your recipe. For example, if your drink is frozen, make it clear. If it’s hot, make it clear. Does your drink comes with a pickled onion (like a Gibson)? Let the guest know they will find that flavor in the drink. Does your main drink has litchi? Call it a “litchi XXXXX” not an “Asian paradise” without making a reference to litchi in the description. The same goes with potentially allergic ingredients such as dairy (cream in a Ramos gin fizz) or egg white (in an sour maybe).

3- Describe it completely. try to make sure you let the guest know what they’re going to get. Avoid disappointments. can u add a simple drawing line or specify the glassware or if it is on the rocks or up? do it.

4- Less is more.Try to minimize the time guests spend reading the menu, this will put them to do what you want them to do: consume and spend money in your place. And they’ll have time to chat with one another, which is what they got together at the end. Also if your bar is full (like in a nightclub), you want your customers to order and move so you can serve other guests, a long menu doesn’t facilitate this traffic flow. TIP: don’t itemize every ingredient, just the ones that lead the flavors.

5- Be descriptive.This is a tricky one and goes hand in hand with commandment 4th. The author suggests being descriptive but only in those items that you want to sell. Check our previous post Right name – Right sales.

6 – Maintain a sense of perspective. As the author says “a menu that recommends everything recommends nothing”. Give preferential treatment to the items that you want to sell, either for profit or for identity.

7- Say it correctly.this is what the author says “A chef insisted in calling his caramelized onions “onion marmalade”. Some customers who know what marmalade is will be disappointed not to find any. Worse some probably felt that the restaurant didn’t know what it was talking about”.  Are you doing this with any of your drinks?

8- Spell it properly.
Make sure you are not misspelling something. If you are an expert act like one. If you can’t write it properly what chances are there that you can mix it properly? Have someone else  double check it for you, it is vrey easy to do typos.

9- Punctuation and grammar.
Check your grammar and group your descriptors. Learn about the grammar rules in the language that your menu is written in, or again, have someone make a proof reading for you.

10- Follow rules of good typography.
Don’t play around too much with your menu graphic design, leave it to professionals and keep it simple. Use as less types as possible and keep in mind the lighting in your room. You want your guests to be able to read it easily and quickly.
Try to avoid isolating your prices in a column (as its usually find in the right), since this will make them choose based on pricing.
Design your menu as to guide your guests eyes to what you want to sell.


Most important of all is to hire a specialist or work with your Chef or bar manager to develop your items and menu content, once you have it then design it and adjust its text and layout. My clients routinely send me their copy; personal or skype consultation goes a long way to put money in your till.

Keep in mind that all your staff should be well versed in the menu; it doesn’t matter how tasty your drinks are, if you don’t have a professionally designed menu and committed staff, your drinks won’t sell.

This previous post will also give you more advice on how to write exciting menus.

Be my guest, Lucas Ranzuglia.


About lucas Ranzuglia

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3 Responses to 10 Commandments for menu success.

  1. Colin says:

    Very helpful, thanks… 🙂

  2. Pingback: A Full Menu of Menu Templates | Print Design Template

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