How To Open a Restaurant | Menu Design Pt. 1

James Miller
August 20, 2021

If you've ever wondered how to open a restaurant, you’ll find that menu design is a crucial element that cannot be overlooked. If you’re not sure where to start, we’re here to lend you a helping hand. The art of crafting the perfect restaurant menu design should not be taken lightly.

Opening a successful restaurant can become your reality, but it's a good idea to know what you’re getting yourself into before diving in at the deep end. Whether you’re new to restaurant ownership or looking to revamp an outdated menu, here’s a helpful guide. In this article, we'll take a closer look at menu design, how to create a menu, the costs associated, and more.

Where do I begin when creating a restaurant menu?

Regardless of whether you are looking to create a restaurant menu design for the first time or the fiftieth, what matters most is that you take the time to consider your strategy. Your menu is so much more than a way to relay your dishes. It helps to convey your message, brand and enhance the overall dining experience.

Here is a step-by-step guide on where to begin when creating a restaurant menu:


  1. Decide on a menu concept
  2. Choose your ingredients
  3. Check out your supply chain
  4. Cost out your dishes
  5. Visualize all the details
  6. Decide on a menu design style
  7. Run a test kitchen


1 - Decide on a menu concept.

The first place to begin with when creating a restaurant menu design is deciding on your concept. Ultimately, you need to determine what it is that will make people fall in love with your restaurant. Ideally, your menu concept should be memorable yet simple. Once you have a concept in mind, you can move forward with all the moving pieces, such as textures, flavors, and colors.

As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to start with no more than 32 items on your menu. This magical number will help to optimize your productivity without overwhelming your guests, who tend to make their decisions within two minutes.

how to open a restaurant

2 - Choose your ingredients.

Once you have your menu concept, you’ll want to narrow down some of your core ingredients. Since creating a menu can be a bit overwhelming, with countless options available, this will help keep you focused. Try to figure out what core ingredients will provide that special something your dishes need.

When choosing your ingredients, you’ll want to try to figure out how to use raw ingredients to your advantage, minimizing food cost and waste in doing so. Do your best to source locally and seasonally as much as you possibly can.

3 - Check out the supply chain.

With a solid restaurant menu concept and core ingredient list in mind, it’s time to move on to sourcing each element. As a restaurant owner, get rid of third parties in your supply chain wherever you can to minimize your risks and costs.

Since you’ll almost certainly be working with multiple suppliers, this is  an excellent place to start building your list with a couple of qualified candidates in each category:


  • Produce suppliers
  • Seafood suppliers
  • Local butchers
  • Local wineries
  • Craft breweries
  • Distilleries 


Here are a few essential elements to remember when investigating your carefully selected suppliers:


  • Company history
  • Ethical work environment
  • Delivery logistics
  • Storage facilities
  • Product recalls from the past

4 - Cost your dishes.

The next step of the process of menu development will be to cost out your dishes. Recipe management programs can be beneficial in analyzing the menu you’ve established. These tools will take a closer look at your concept, portions, and associated ingredients to determine some of your costs.

You’ll need to determine whether the costs make sense for your business. Ask yourself these critical questions during this process:


  • What is your average revenue goal per customer?
  • Are you balancing the pricing?
  • Will you generate a profit?
  • Have you priced appropriately for your target market?

5 - Visualize all the details.

Visualizing all of the details will come after you have your concept and costs squared. This crucial step is yet another that should never be overlooked as you always want to remember your goal is to enhance the dining experience.

For starters, you’ll want to try out each dish with three different plating styles—and don’t forget to take pictures. Trial and error are going to help you fine-tune your menu into its most perfect form for your guests.

Some questions you’ll want to ask yourself when developing the visualization of your menu:


  • How will the dish look after it’s been sitting in a takeout box for ten minutes?
  • Which elements of the dish should go together? 
  • Is your dish Instagram-worthy?
  • How do the colors look together? 
  • How does the menu item look on the dish or in the glass?

6 - Decide on a menu design style.

Believe it or not, menu design can make or break the profits in your restaurant. The positioning of your menu offerings will impact your customer’s purchasing decisions. If your most expensive dish is hidden away, it’ll likely never be selected.

The restaurant menu design style should match your restaurant’s overall concept while aiding your servers in their ability to upsell customers. The key is in having just enough information written out in the menu without being overly wordy. Remember that you want your branding everywhere, including on your menus, so that everything flows cohesively.

how to open a restaurant

7 - Try it out.

There’s no more beneficial aspect of menu design than running a test kitchen. Running a test kitchen gives your chefs, serving staff, and you the ability to see the logistics of each dish. You can decide for yourself whether or not each item meets your expectations and, if not, change it until it does.

Try hosting a soft opening, having a family and friends night, or anything of the sort. Get people involved who have an unbiased opinion of your restaurant for the most genuine feedback before opening your doors officially.

Join us next week.

As of now you are well on your way when it comes to learning and executing how to open a restaurant. But menu design is no small feat, in fact, it is arguably the key most important element of your restaurant!  That is why this menu design series had to be broken down into two articles.

Join us next week as we return with pricing breakdown and strategies to help you create the menu everyone is talking about, until next time!

While your here, if you are opening a new restaurant, you are going to need to hire some new staff! Be sure to check out our hiring guide below to help get you on the right track!

how to open a restaurant


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