Coming up with a restaurant concept and menu engineering takes a lot of effort and hard work. So make sure you present your ideas in the best possible way with creative menu design.
Whether you serve something as simple as hot dogs or as stylish as truffle risotto, you need to give each menu item ample attention. The two basic principles of creating a successful restaurant menu are providing key information (if you give your creations funky names make sure there’s a list of ingredients somewhere) and creating a visual appeal that will speak to your target audience.
Here are 12 great design ideas to help you get started.
The power of photography in restaurant menu design
There are many reasons to use high-quality photos to spice up your menu design. Perhaps you run a hipster brunch place with many customers looking to order something both tasty and instagramable. Or you have a big family restaurant with lots of menu items. Help rowdy families and indecisive picky eaters choose the perfect meal by including appetizing photos of your offer.
1. The Sandwich Gallery
Everyone knows what a hot dog looks like right? Or a grilled cheese sandwich? And yet why is it that most fast food restaurants usually feature images of these gastronomic guilty pleasures?
Images of food tend to make us hungry (remember the old saying “eyes bigger than the stomach”). However, making certain food look appetizing and beautiful is quite a skill. The Sandwich Gallery is a brunch place that serves all the classics like avocado toast, eggs and even burgers for those much-needed hungover meals.
This menu design is exceptional as it takes the diner on a trip around the world with each sandwich-type of food representing one city in the world. The photos are paired with subtle illustrations and all the key information is included, like food cost, ingredients and calories.
By Noor Alswadi via Behance
You might not think that fish and seafood are the most photogenic of foods, but this lovely restaurant menu might convince you otherwise. Instead of focusing on one large food photo, it combines several dishes from the menu in a gorgeous photographic spread.
Appetizers, entrees and desserts are all found on separate pages, and subcategorized as cold and hot starters, BBQ and fish dishes. Despite the abundance of food, the menu design still doesn’t look cluttered—a stylish blue background makes this menu look like some sort of food magazine.
By Ann Reus and Alexander Homyakovvia Behance
The point of photos in menu design is usually to show your guests what they can expect on their plates. But photos are a powerful tool, especially if you are a restaurateur specializing in a specific, exotic cuisine. They can educate customers about the cultural tradition or the cooking process itself.
This appetizers page concept for an Asian fusion restaurant uses “behind the scenes” photos, instead of the common sushi plates or rice bowls.
by Carl Kaed via Behance
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Gorgeous illustrated restaurant menus
Modern isometric illustrations or retro watercolors, there are tons of creative ways in which restaurateurs use illustrations to spice up their menu design. Illustrations will give your menu a custom look and set it apart from boring menu templates you can find with a simple Google search.
This trendy spot in Warsaw serves gorgeously instagrammable food and drinks, like veggie burgers, ice cream, salads, pasta, and the inescapable breakfast foods.
Their style and food menu are youthful and eclectic and this cute and quirky menu design showcases that well. They have beautiful outdoor seating which is shown on the menu. You can even tell the kind of clientele this restaurant business is popular with: hip, young people who are often animal lovers.
By Michal Loba via Behance
5. Al Dente
We’re all used to Italian restaurant menus being an endless stream of red, white and green, with the usual images of olive oil and parmesan getting sprinkled over rich pasta plates.
So this creative menu design truly offers a breath of fresh air. After all, Italian food is fairly simple and these colorful, cute illustrations fit the casual fun nature of this particular cuisine. This restaurant’s logo design is simple, yet perfectly fitting: the letter “N” looks like a cooked spaghetti. Since this cute bistro is located in Minsk, the numerous hero illustrations are there to help bring a feel of Italy.
By Fabula Branding via Behance
6. El Carinito
Mexican food restaurants are well known for their widely popular delicacies like tacos, burritos and nachos, but also for their colorful design celebrating the rich cultural heritage of this country.
El Carinito is no exception. Since it’s located in Mexico, the graphic designer behind this restaurant’s branding had no small task of creating something colorful, yet unique. The front of the menu almost looks like a book cover with a modern floral design that’s simply stunning. And the inside is decorated with custom illustrations of traditional ingredients like corn, avocados and chilli peppers.
By Abraham Lule via Behance
The menu items you usually expect in a steakhouse, like steaks and BBQ wings might not make the most appealing illustrations, but this shouldn’t discourage you from including illustrated elements in your restaurant menu.
This steakhouse added simple illustrations to different menu sections like entrees or salads; if you’re out of inspiration, you can see that even a decorative fork will do the trick! It’s always a good idea not to crowd your restaurant menu with illustrations so that customers can see the important stuff like food cost, allergens, etc. However, the cover page is where you can get really creative and provide your guests with an opportunity to marvel at your gorgeous design before they tuck into the specifics of choosing their order.
By Yeye Design via Behance
Stylish menus for a fine dining experience
If you take your place in the restaurant industry very seriously and want to attract a clientele with more refined tastes, there are a few menu design tips you should know. Often, the most stylish places have the simplest restaurant menu design: plain paper and a carefully selected typeface. Or you can add different visuals to highlight the importance of high-quality ingredients.
Here are some very classy restaurant menu ideas to inspire those with a taste for class.
8. Moshi Moshi
Japanese restaurants are known for their elegant, minimalistic style. Yet again, make sure to add your own personal touch to timeless elements like a black, white and red color scheme or photos of elaborate sushi plates.
This stylish restaurant added a personal touch to their menu design with simple patterns that perfectly complement the photos. And the fish illustration on the cover of the menu is another great unique feature: it’s realistic enough not to seem out of place in this well-curated sushi catalog, but also stylized to fit the elegant style.
Brains & Broz DZ. and Noah Wilcox via Behance
Another Mexican food restaurant on our list that gives the “conventional” look a run for the money. This incredibly stylish food menu belongs to a London restaurant that is named after the year that started the Mexican revolution.
The designers state that the aim of this branding project was to “create a Mexican identity without cliches”. Sure enough, they succeeded to do that with great success, relying on traditional imagery and richness of colors, but with a more modern, stylized approach.
The simplicity and visual appeal of this restaurant menu design signal that it’s a place where you can try some amazing food, but perhaps even go on a classy margaritas date, with crispy nachos and guacamole for snacks.
By Humanvia Behance
10. The Brass Onion
This “modern American restaurant with a traditional country flare” has almost a French-country vibe to it. It’s got a vast food menu, from brunch favorites to bar snacks and family takeaway dinners.
Having so many menu items can mean a busy, inaccessible design that might leave your customers frustrated. This makes a great restaurant menu idea for any place with a vast offer: you can see all the key information easily listed but the menu is given a nice touch with simple illustrations and a classy color scheme.
This menu belongs to a hip cocktail bar and kitchen in Ukraine. It’s another restaurant that doesn’t specialize in a specific cuisine, but serves an eclectic and fun menu, including everything from BBQ wings and nachos to oysters!
This modern, minimalist menu matches their style perfectly since it’s both youthful but also stylish. The restaurant’s social media (especially their Instagram page) is super colorful and fun, but what’s great about it is that they often manage to include the key branding elements like their geometric logo as well as yellow and red elements.
By Maria Mescaline, Taras Rusych and Mihail Melnichenko via Behance
12. S.O.S Vegan
Vegan restaurants are rarely just about food preferences: veggies and vegans are often people with strong opinions and stands about the entire food and restaurant industry. One of the most important considerations is the connection to nature and the ethics of the food production process.
This restaurant menu idea is a great example of using common “vegan” elements like leaves and an earthy color palette and adding a personal touch. The menus are sleek, narrow rectangles with a clean design containing all the information on food cost and ingredients, while the back is more decorative with a unique pattern created out of the restaurant’s logo.
By Isadora Vedesheim via Behance
Are you hungry for more?
We hope our list of restaurant menu ideas has sparked your creativity and got you excited about creating a menu that will excite and delight your customers, but also enforce your branding and your story.
Don’t forget that ManyPixels is an unlimited design service, which means that whether you’re a high-end restaurant or a hip food truck, we can help you design better for your business! If you have a new restaurant menu idea in mind, our talented designers can help bring it to the table!