Restaurant Menu Engineering Design

Double Elephant's picture


Can anyone recommend a decent book(s) on the effective information design of Restaurant menus? (I can't seem to find any.)

There are some books with visual examples of creative menus, but no solid textbooks that I can see?

Also, if anyone has any recommendations of the latter (books with visual examples of creative menus eg Pentagram) then they'd be most welcome too.

It would be nice to have a long thread here, as a resource for other food menu designers.


Bloodtype's picture

This isn't engineering design. What's to know? You name the dish, and the price, then lay it out nicely. You'd be far better off collecting menus than searching for the definitive textbook.

Double Elephant's picture

Hi Bloodtype,

Thanks for your post.

It is menu engineering design, in fact, it's an entire field of information design.
Just like other areas of information design there are things to be learned from the combination of psychology and design that are behind the structure of the menu.

NBC and Time magazine both recently ran stories on menu engineering design. Just like any area of design, laying it out nicely without any thought to the way it should function best would be a naive step.

Collecting menus sounds like a good plan though, thanks.

dezcom's picture

I have not seen such a book. I would think the best way to approach it is to think like a patron of the place and plot out how the menu would function best for you. You might also ask a few non-designer friends what their expectations would be of a menu. The other end of the spectrum would be how the management of the establishment uses the menu functionally. Do they have an agenda where they are emphasizing or featuring certain items or combinations? I guess I am saying "Walk a mile in another man's moccasins" (or several) and look for a process that interlocks the needs of the client with the needs of the proprietor. The design process for most things of this genre is not so different--Audience, Purpose, Message on one side and an elegant path to the communication destination on the other.
You certainly need a predictable system that the clientele can follow. You also should at least reflect the ambience of the place and type of food. Ask yourself, why do people come to this place? The answer is different for a fast food joint, a business lunch place, a dinner date place. It is also textured with the cuisine or ethnic basis of the food--an English pub as opposed to a Thai or Lebanese place.
Also, think about the amount of time people will spend with the menu, not only to find their choice of dish for the night, but as a visitors experience. The difference between an info-graphics presentation and a menu is that visitors of restaurants are looking for an experience as well as a meal.
Perhaps the book you should read is "Black Elk Speaks"?

jabez's picture

Two articles I remember on this subject, but more from the 'psychology/marketing' angle.

Using Menu Psychology to Entice Diners

Menu Mind Games
In his new book, Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It), author William Poundstone dissects the marketing tricks built into menus—for example, how something as simple as typography can drive you toward or away from that $39 steak.

Nick Shinn's picture

It is menu engineering design, in fact, it's an entire field of information design.

Why apologize for what we do, and try to pass it off as something assumed to be more socially acceptable, intellectually respectable, and financially valuable? Such pretense only demeans graphic design.

Sure, it is possible to talk about a well-engineered graphic design, just as one may describe a beautiful piece of engineering —but this is metaphor, and it doesn't make the graphic designer an engineer, or the engineer a beautician.

Functionality is an inherent part of graphic design and typography, not a hybrid add-on.

That "empirical" aspect of design which is sometimes interpreted as engineering concerns demographics, market research and statistics, and (as jabez notes) has more to do with applied psychology.

The real engineering of graphic design is in the nuts and bolts of typography—manipulating type size, weight, style, scaling, leading, justification, tracking, kerning, colour and tone.

sbourdin's picture

Hi Hellbox,
I've done a lot a research on this subject. I'm a graphic designer trying to persuade restaurant owner to use menu engineering when designing their menus. I find it fascinating. And if you read the studies, it works to increase revenue for restaurant owners.

You can find some useful links on my website on the link page under the headers "Les études" & "La Presse" These headers are in French, but all the links there are in English and relate to strictly to menu engineering/graphic design.

I've read that this a good book on the topic Food Service Menus: Pricing and Managing the Food Service Menu for Maximun Profit (The Food Service Professional Guide to Series 13) ISBN-10: 0910627231.

This blog on the subject also provides some visual examples of engineered menus:

Cheers, Susan

JamesM's picture

I'm a graphic designer and although I don't do any menu design myself I've come across a few articles on the subject and find it interesting. However many of the articles I've seen focus mainly on the writing of menus, rather than the graphic design. For example, in the article "Ten Commandments of Menu Success" - - nine of the ten "commandments" relate primarily to writing, and when they do discuss typography it's mostly common-sense advice (make it legible, don't mix too many fonts, etc).

I have seen some articles that touch on graphic design elements such as menu organization and whether or not to list prices in columns, and I did find the advice interesting and sometimes surprising, but I'm not sure there's really enough advice out there to warrant someone printing a whole book on the subject. Not unless the book is mainly just photos of nice menus & restaurant signage; I have seen a few of those, and I think Amazon has a few.

Trevor Baum's picture

Look up Milton Glaser's designs of my grandfather's menus at Rainbow Room and Windows on the World. Classic.

letterjay's picture

Quite late to this thread, but this new site has lots of well designed menus to peruse:

KCH's picture

Here's a nice reference site for menu design:


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