In our previous articles we’ve covered a wide variety of printed materials, ranging from Christmas cards, to booklet printing, followed by business cards, and most recently we introduced plastic cards.
We’re now going to take a look at menus, in particular those found in restaurants – although of course various other types of establishment use what might loosely be described as “menus” to describe their various “offerings”, (for example, hairdressers).
The history of the restaurant menu
It’s quite interesting to take a very quick look at the history, and how they’ve evolved over time.
The very word “menu” – like so much of the special language of cuisine – is French in origin, deriving from the Latin “minitus” (something made small).
What we would now recognise as a menu first came into widespread use in France in the latter part of the eighteenth century. The choices available to customers were written on a small chalk-board, or “carte” in French, hence the term that we’re all familiar with, “à la carte”, literally, “according to the board”.
Note the distinction between this type of menu and “table d’hôte”, where your meal is chosen for you by the chef or owner, usually for a fixed price.
We’re now all familiar with what restaurant menus (together with the all important wine list!) look like, so what more is there to be said about them? Well, as it happens, quite a lot!
First things first, the menu has to be appealing …
You might at first think that once you’re sitting down reading a menu you’re already committed to eating there, and in most cases that’s probably true. But think about it, what drew you in in the first place? Sure, the location, and the look of the place, and the “buzz”, all play enormous parts. But if the menu doesn’t appeal, then you probably won’t go in there however nice the place looks!
And this is probably even more important if you’re offering a delivery or take-out service, and are perhaps delivering your menus to homes within your catchment area. You probably have about ten seconds to grab their attention before it goes in the recycling bin, so you’ve got to make sure that it looks good and tells the customer what they might want to know.
Silly question – what needs to go on a printed menu other than food and drink (and what they cost)?
Is it such a silly question? If it’s to be delivered to your home, how about opening hours, last orders, delivery charges, minimum spend etc.?
And wherever the menu is – on the restaurant table in front of you or by the kitchen phone – what about things like vegetarian options, information on nut allergies or use of dairy products, locally sourced products, free range eggs, organic, GM … the list goes on. You’ll see that there’s a surprisingly large amount of things that you need to think about to get the perfect menu.
Well, sooner or later (hopefully) the client will look at the menu and make a choice, so here’s your opportunity to “sell” (or should we say “encourage”?) your fabulous range of dishes and drinks.
Interesting and mouth-watering descriptions – often with the odd French word thrown in for good measure and to add that certain je ne sais quoi – never does any harm.
And thinking about one of my favourite subjects – wine! – it’s always a good idea to have an informative and appealing description rather than a purely functional one. Which wine are you more likely to order?
Rated as one of Bordeaux’s greatest vintages, and very bright and clean in appearance. The nose has so much going on, with a wide and complex bouquet from tertiary development – white truffle, tobacco, leather, autumn leaves – to still secondary aromas of spice and black fruit. The palate is harmonious and dense with some grippy tannins still present and surprisingly sweet black fruit liqueur characters on the finish. The vintage is still, amazingly, very young and it’s incredible to think that this wine still has so much more to give. Definitely one of the stars …
They describe exactly the same wine!
(And here’s a fun article that you might like to read!)
I get the gist. So where do I get my printed menus from?
Well, there’s no getting away from the fact that you’ll have to think about the right content for your menus quite hard, but the good news is that we have lots of experience and can help you with all aspects of the process.
You won’t be disappointed, and neither will your clients!