Restaurant menu design project
Menus are vehicles a restaurant owner uses to communicate specific product information to a hungry target market. The target market is usually, as seated diners, a very captive and interested audience. A menu may also be a selling tool for the restaurant. It is an integral part of and can enhance the restaurant's overall ambience, image and reputation. Currently, menus cost $3-$10 each to design and produce. Some cost less: photocopied or handwritten sheets; some cost more: real leather covers, hand calligraphy, or expensive materials. The price of the menu should be determined by the location, price of items, interior ambience, character and style, and quality of food preparation.

Resource links
Good info about menus
Also, peruse the 'In this section' menu on the right.
A stock template for a menu
Don't let your menu look like this.
A poorly designed menu
Don't do this either.
From Chuck Green's Idea Book:
Just for fun, let's start off with how NOT to design a menu
The Psychology of Menu Design from Restaurant Resource Group
The Ten-Minute Manager's Guide to Menu Design from R&I
A short article about menu engineer Gregg Rapp from Time Magazine
A full concept design for South St. Burger Co. by Jump Branding & Design Inc.
A case study from Restaurant Startup & Growth

Select a restaurant that currently uses or should use a menu. There are no other limitations on the type of restaurant, but since you will eat there, pick one convenient to you with food you enjoy eating. Determine the specific problem or problems to be solved, set the objectives, and define the target market. Eat there: several times, different items, different times. You will become an authority on the restaurant, its food, clientele, service, decor, locations, etc. Consider the character and personality of the inside, exterior, parking lot, signage and surrounding neighborhood. Define the type of restaurant: casual, formal, deli, diner, family, high end. Look at the patrons eating there. They will make up much of your target market. Obtain an existing menu (beg, borrow, buy) for reference and study it thoroughly. Determine any design limitations that will affect a new menu (lighting, table space, number of food items, storage, etc.) Determine the atmosphere or image conveyed to the diner. This information should help you select type, color, shape, visuals, etc. Explore numerous clever creative concepts. They should be appropriate to the place, clearly communicate the food items, be organized neatly by food category (appetizers, salads, entrees, desserts, etc.) and have a good physical feel in the customers' hands. After sufficient research, use traditional design methods: sketch numerous thumbnails, refine the concept and its sketches, and develop roughs in which you determine and finalize all of the design decisions.

Process Book
Compile a process book for this project - recommended items to include:
About the restaurant
• Restaurant full name and any nicknames
• Description of the restaurant company
Category of restaurant - casual, high-end, buffet, diner, deli, etc; location of the home office; other restaurant locations;
• Competition
Restaurants in the area with similar menu items, audience, and market objectives
• Description of the restaurant exterior
Themes, colors, materials, styles, parking, street curbside appeal, signage, surrounding buildings and streets, location in the city
• Description of the restaurant interior design
Themes, colors, materials, lighting, signage, traffic flow, table arrangements, styles, bus stands, host/hostess stand, ambience, atmosphere
• Description of the food and drink
Categories, specialties, unique items, most popular items, kids items, desserts,
• Description of the service style
Attentive, casual, formal,
• Average ticket price
Include drinks, appetizers, etc; for both lunch and dinner
• Marketing
Logo and identity, samples of marketing and advertising, slogans, media
About the diner
• The ADP
Determine the specific Average Diner Profile: frequency of visit, age, marital status, socio-economic, education,
• Other target markets
Specific secondary and tertiary audiences
About the menu
• Assessment of the existing menu
Cover, typefaces, layout, images/photos, materials, colors, sequence,
• Assessment of competitor's menus
Strengths and weaknesses - what works and what doesn't,
• Life expectancy
How long the menu is used before being replaced for new items or a change in prices
• Budget
How much money will the restaurant invest in new menus
About the design project
• Research conducted
State specifically what you did to learn more about the restaurant, the audience, the food, the competition, the marketing needs,
• List what you did to get fluid ideas
The 'silly' stuff you did to open your mind, get inspiration, explore, pursue options - the more off-the-wall, the better;
• List adjectives the menu should convey
Qualities and attributes that should be communicated
• Objectives the design of the menu should achieve
List and clarify what should be accomplished to be successful
• Concept statement
The big idea, the key message, a description of the theme that drives the entire piece

Build a presentation comp that addresses all aspects of the project, including type, photography/illustration, color and paper choice. Turn in a finished comp exactly as you would present to the owner of the restaurant. Specs on color, size, binding, printing will be dictated by the assumed (or actual) budget, storage capabilities, usage patterns, etc.

Creative concept: appropriate, enhancing, appetizing
Effective communication: type selection, layout, color, graphic elements, physical feel
Execution: neatness, thoroughness, craftsmanship
Presentation: rehearsed, brief, thorough, energetic, enthusiastic, confident