Recently, international business mogul David Tang discussed effective menu design in his column for the Financial Times, and all restaurant executives might want to give careful consideration to his advice. In his self-described "moan about menus," Tang criticizes type that is too small and lighting that is too dim, making it unnecessarily difficult for older and far-sighted diners to read about a restaurant's offerings. He says this is the type of problem that arises when the designer of the menu does not give sufficient consideration to the user's experience.
"Menu designs should be done by diners who constantly go out to eat and therefore have acquired the knowledge of functionality," Tang writes. "At all my own restaurants, I go out of my way to offer large-print menus so that the words stand out clearly. And there is adequate illumination. I understand all this because I go out to restaurants to eat all the time and know all the annoyances."
Tang founded the China Tang restaurant at the Dorchester Hotel in London, as well as the Island Tang restaurant in Hong Kong.
To prevent such potential pitfalls in your own restaurants, consider hiring designers with a proven track-record of creating menus that are sensitive to the user's wants and needs. According to Tang, you may even want to require that they frequently dine out as "field research," thereby regularly putting themselves in the customers' shoes.
When designing a menu, it is important to determine who your target customer will be and then think about what kind of experience they are hoping for when they visit your establishment. Think about your typical guest's age, gender, cultural background and socioeconomic status, and what they want out of their meal. Their expectations for a special anniversary dinner will be quite different from a casual weeknight supper.
Other factors that might also annoy your diners, and even discourage them from returning to your restaurant, include:
Are your establishments so loud with background noise that conversation among your guests is difficult? Architectural and decor changes — such as thick rugs — can help dampen ambient sound.
Inappropriate or loud music
Music should be carefully chosen to reflect the brand identity of your restaurant, and its volume should be strategically set so as to enhance diners' experiences. Music that is too loud will interfere with your customers' conversations.
They say the devil is in the details, and this could not be more true in the hospitality industry. Your guests are sure to notice the look, feel and overall quality of your menus, so be sure to use only the finest, acid-free cotton paper. We recommend Reich Paper's popular Savoy line, now available in a chic grey, as well as several shades of white and cream.