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How to make an outstanding restaurant menu

Your restaurant can capture a customer’s attention in many ways: by catching their eye on the street, popping up in online search results, or stopping them mid-scroll on third-party apps like Uber Eats.

But what’s the key to moving these hungry customers from noticing to ordering?

Your menu.

If you want to attract new customers, you have to create a gorgeous, descriptive, accurate menu that you can update easily across channels.

To help you nail your restaurant menu creation (or update), we’re sharing expert insights from Letty Chavarria. Chavarria grew up working in her family-owned restaurant in San Antonio, Texas, and is now an account executive at Uber Eats. She also led an internal pilot project that trained menu teams on building more accurate and eye-catching menus on the app.

In addition to those insider tips, this article covers the following topics:

The importance of a good menu

“Your menu is not just a list of offerings but a pivotal money maker for any food establishment,” says Chavarria.

Consumer behavior trends echo this reality. Research from TouchBistro’s 2023 Dining Trends Report found that 84% of diners look up restaurant menus before ordering. This marks a notable increase from 59% in 2017, highlighting the growing importance of well-crafted menus in influencing dining choices.

What makes a good restaurant menu?

A good restaurant menu is well designed, adheres to brand guidelines, offers clear customization options, is updated regularly, and maintains consistency across all customer channels (such as in-store, website, third-party applications, and any other platforms where your menu is accessible).

White Castle is an excellent example of a restaurant with a menu that’s optimized for a positive customer experience.

To start, the menu reflects White Castle’s values: quality, speed, and value. Staying true to these values has served as a North Star. It has allowed them to experiment in a way that’s operationally feasible, aligned with their customers’ cravings, and supportive of innovation in service of evolving trends.

White Castle’s menu, for example, not only reflects the brand’s century-long history by highlighting its famous sliders but also caters to a diverse crowd with its comprehensive selection of new items—like a plant-based Impossible™ slider—and a variety of customization options. The menu focuses on catering to customers who want different types of foods and those who order across different channels.

When a White Castle customer orders in person, they can speak with a server, ask questions, get feedback, and customize their order until they’re satisfied. The company knows that its customers ordering on a third-party delivery app don’t have this same luxury. White Castle solves the problem on its Uber Eats menu by using customization fields and unique categories (like meal suggestions based on your group’s size). This makes it possible for people to order exactly what they want—even when they aren’t speaking to a server.

Plus, White Castle tracks analytics and monitors data to understand trends and customer preferences. By capturing and reviewing insights, the company is always ready to make strategic menu adjustments that satisfy customers.

Above all, White Castle’s menu strategy goes beyond listing food items—it’s about creating a comprehensive and convenient experience that resonates with customers, whether they're ordering at the counter, at the drive-through, online, or on a third-party app.


“Your menu is not just a list of offerings but a pivotal money maker for any food establishment.”

Letty Chavarria, Account Executive, Uber Eats

How to make a menu: 7 steps

So how do you create a menu that makes your customers’ mouths water, entices new diners, and engages people across any channel where they might find you?

Below are 7 steps to follow. Once you’ve implemented each of them, you’ll have a menu you’re proud to place on your dining tables, publish online, and feature in third-party apps.

Choose what dishes to include

Chavarria offers excellent insight into how to approach menu design: “You’ve heard the saying ‘Good input gives you good output.’ So if you input the right items at the beginning of your menu design process, the output will be a good menu, which can translate into higher sales and more revenue for your business.”

But what exactly does that mean? How many items should be on your menu? How do you need to categorize your items so customers can easily digest them and make quick and accurate decisions?

Let’s answer this in 2 parts. First, your menu should contain every item available to your customers. That could be 3, or it could be 300.

But no one wants to read a list of 300 items, which brings us to the second part of the answer, rooted in human psychology. Cognitive psychologist George A. Miller found that humans retain 7 pieces of information at a time. Does this mean you should have only 7 items on your menu? No. But it does mean that menu designers can benefit from grouping items into different categories—ideally, 7.

Categorize your menu

Now that you’ve picked out your top dishes, it’s time to categorize them in a way that’s easy for diners to review, understand, and order from.

For this, let’s stick with another example from human psychology. Humans, by nature, are accustomed to certain patterns or sequences, particularly when it comes to food consumption.

We typically don’t eat dessert first (unless it’s a really great day). Instead, we start with drinks. Then appetizers, salads, or soups. This is followed by the main course. Finally, desserts.

Review your menu items, and group them into chronological categories. For example, think of the last restaurant you went to with a large—but easily digestible—menu. It may have been divided somewhat like this:

  • Appetizers
  • Soups
  • Salads
  • Entrees
  • Sides
  • Desserts
  • Beverages

There’s no hard-and-fast rule about what your categories should be. Just make sure they’re recognizably categorized to make reading your menu and ordering easier.

Include detailed descriptions

You may be familiar with the experience of traveling to another country and ordering from a menu that’s just a list of dishes with a 2- or 3-word descriptor. In Greece, for example, a menu might say “Pork souvlaki,” and that’s it.

Expecting only pork souvlaki, you may also order a salad and fries. But then you’re surprised when the server brings a plate of souvlaki that comes with a salad and fries—and you also get the extra salad and fries you ordered. The result? Too much food and money wasted.

The power of descriptions transcends cuisine types and geography, and any restaurant can fall victim to not being descriptive enough. Now’s a great time to take a hard look at your menu and see if it’s lacking the descriptive details your customers need to make informed choices.

To keep your patrons happy, consider the following when writing your item descriptions:

  • Accuracy. Tell your diners in your menu descriptions exactly what’s in each dish. Don’t leave anything out.

  • Brand voice. Ensure that the language and tone of your menu align with your restaurant’s brand and style. This is even possible on third-party apps like Uber Eats, where you can add and update your own descriptions.

  • Appetizing details. Incorporate vivid and enticing descriptions that highlight the unique qualities and flavors of each dish.

  • Labels for allergies and dietary restrictions. Clearly label items with information about potential allergens and tags for special dietary needs like gluten-free, vegan, and more.

  • Nutrition information. Provide nutritional details where appropriate, catering to health-conscious diners and people with specific dietary requirements.

Use quality imagery

Have you ever tried to order from a menu and the pictures are either missing or look like they came from a crumpled-up 1970s newspaper? Then you reluctantly order, only to realize you’re consuming the best thing to ever touch your palate?

It’s a shame when menu imagery doesn’t do the meal justice. “People eat first with their eyes, then they eat with their stomach,” Chavarria reminds us. “They’re going to be looking at the picture on your menu and say, ‘That enchilada looks so delicious’ and then want it.”

She continues to explain the powerful role images play in ordering: “Pictures are one of the easiest foolproof levers you can use to capture more sales.” Our internal data shows that businesses with complete menu photo coverage earn 88%+ more sales on Uber Eats than businesses with little to no photo coverage.*

The best part? With Menu Maker from Uber Eats, it’s easy to add gorgeous images to your menu.

“Our tool has the ability to drag over a photo, or you can upload one directly using the web-based version of Uber Eats Manager,” says Chavarria. “Most owners will already have photos. And if not, we can help coordinate a professional photo shoot with our approved vendor to provide your business with high-quality photos of some of your most popular items.”**

For detailed information about how to make your menu photos shine, check out our restaurant menu photography guidelines. Above all else, make sure your pictures don’t feature hands, people, or branding other than your own.

This is a nice top-down shot that includes bright colors and focuses on the food. The napkin, silverware, and flatbread also add context—helping the customer understand what type of restaurant they’re ordering from.

All of the ingredients are visible in this shot of a sandwich. For menu items like sandwiches, wraps, burritos, and burgers, it’s wise to picture a cross section to give customers an idea of what they can expect on the inside.

Including utensils in your pictures can help clarify the scale of a dish. In this picture, the chopsticks reveal that the size of the bowl is rather small, which might prompt customers to add more to their order if they’re hungry. They also might opt to include disposable chopsticks with their order if they don’t have them at home.

Set up your pricing for success

How you price your menu items ultimately depends on what works for you and your revenue needs. But some age-old menu pricing strategies can help guide you, including these:

  • Cost-plus pricing. Set menu prices by adding a fixed percentage to the cost of making the dish, ensuring profit over costs.

  • Competitive pricing. Adjust prices based on what other businesses charge for similar dishes, to stay competitive in the market.

  • Value-based pricing. Price dishes based on the perceived value to the customer. This is often used for specialty or high-demand items.

  • Dynamic pricing. Vary prices based on demand, time of day, or specific events to maximize revenue during peak times.

  • Psychological pricing. Use pricing strategies, like setting prices slightly below a round number (for instance, $9.99 instead of $10), to make dishes appear more affordable.

You may decide to keep your menu prices the same across channels or vary them. There's no right or wrong way to price your in-person, online, and third-party delivery platform menu prices.

“Some restaurants like to have the same prices across their in-store and third-party app menus, while others like to offset the marketplace fees that a third-party app will charge and mark up items accordingly,” says Chavarria.

Either way, setting your third-party delivery menu pricing is easy with Uber Eats.

Says Chavarria: “Let’s say you want to mark up all your menu item prices by 10%. You don’t have to figure out the percentages one by one manually. Just make the request when you sign up for an account, and we’ll create the menu with the price increase on your behalf. For an existing menu, you can just send a written request to our Support team asking for the storewide increase. You can always update pricing for individual menu items on your own as well.”

Ensure a cohesive design

People consume information differently in person and online. As such, your physical and digital menus will look and function differently. Here are some things to consider when designing different kinds of menus.

Design best practices for a physical menu

  • Clear layout. Organize the menu in a logical, easy-to-navigate manner, grouping similar items together.

  • Readable fonts. Use fonts that are easy to read, considering size and style, to enhance legibility for all customers.

  • Appropriate colors. Choose color schemes that reflect your brand and are appealing without overpowering the text.

  • High-quality images. Include professional, appetizing photos of dishes, but use them sparingly to avoid clutter.

  • Consistent branding. Ensure that the menu design aligns with your restaurant’s overall branding and atmosphere.

Design best practices for an online or third-party app menu

  • Simplified navigation. Structure the menu for easy scrolling and quick selection, with categories and subcategories clearly defined.

  • Device optimization. Make sure the online design is responsive—meaning it looks good on different devices and screen sizes.

  • Fast load times. Optimize images and design elements to ensure that the menu loads quickly, enhancing users’ experience.

  • Detailed descriptions. Include concise, clear descriptions for each item, aiding customers in making informed choices.

  • Prominent special offers. Highlight deals or popular items to attract attention and encourage orders.

  • Customization. Remember, customers don’t speak to a server when ordering in a third-party app. Make it easy for them by offering fully customizable options.

A third-party app like Uber Eats makes incorporating these proven design best practices easy. Menu Maker helps you create, edit, and update your menu, so you can serve exactly what your customers want.

Print and publish

The final step is to print, review, and publish your menu. Let’s start with printing your physical menu, then publishing your online menu.

Before sending your menu to the printer, consider:

  • Menu size. Opt for a size that’s easy to handle and read, like A4 or slightly larger.

  • Material quality. Choose durable materials like laminated paper or cardstock to withstand frequent use and spills.

  • Printing services. Use local print shops or specialized menu-printing businesses for professional printing and design advice.

  • Final design and finish. Consider design elements and finishing options that complement your restaurant’s branding and style.

Remember, publishing your menu on your website, on your Google Business Profile, and across third-party apps is equally important as—if not more than—getting your physical menu ready.

The reason? More than two-thirds (69%) of restaurant customers order takeout or delivery as often as or more often than they did before the pandemic, and 13% prefer to order from third-party delivery platforms and websites, according to Deloitte.

Before publishing your menu on Uber Eats, check out this solid advice from Chavarria: “In our menu tool, we have an overview of all your menus (such as breakfast, lunch, and dinner). I implore you to click on those menus and check the hours, items, categories, customizations, and prices.”

“People eat first with their eyes, then they eat with their stomach. They’re going to be looking at the picture on your menu and say, ‘That enchilada looks so delicious’ and then want it.”

Letty Chavarria, Account Executive, Uber Eats

Restaurant menu optimization tips to increase AOV

Congratulations! You’ve followed best practices and designed a physical, online, and third-party menu that your customers are bound to love. Now let’s cover some menu optimization strategies that can help increase your average order value (AOV).

Customize your menu

If you want to capture more sales, encourage add-ons, and increase how often customers order from you, you have to make it easy for them.

This is especially true considering “there isn’t someone taking a customer’s order on Uber Eats,” says Chavarria. “They need choice and flexibility at their fingertips. This goes a long way in improving customer satisfaction and reducing order errors and chargebacks.”

Use Uber Eats to give customers the ability to fully customize their orders. This includes letting them add and remove ingredients from whatever they order.

Says Chavarria: “Something I suggest is to add extras into the individual menu items. For example, at one specific restaurant, the Beef or Lamb with Rice and Boneless Rib Eye Steak Plate on the menu do not come with sides. I created an ‘Add sides’ option for those entrees. Then customers don’t have to navigate away from the menu item over to the Sides section. Instead, it’s right there. In one specific instance [captured in a screenshot below], this added an additional $25 to the ticket total for one order.”

In the screenshot below, you can see the main menu item in bold, plus the customizations and sides.

Screenshot of a digital order receipt from Uber Eats showing two customized entree orders with add-ons along with two unmodified side dishes.

Offer combos

If you want to increase the amount you make on one order, offer combos. “Let’s say you sell hamburgers,” says Chavarria. “You could offer a combo for $15 where they pay a little extra to get fries and a soda.”

By bundling items for a slightly higher price, customers perceive added value and convenience, making them more likely to opt for the combo.

This approach not only boosts sales but also encourages customers to try a wider range of offerings, potentially leading to higher customer satisfaction and repeat business.

White Castle wins with the bundling approach. The restaurant partners with Coca-Cola to offer more than 100 beverages. Instead of ordering all menu items one by one, customers can add a beverage to their meal with one click. This makes it easier for customers to get a drink with their meal and results in an upsell for White Castle.

Test to see what works

Menu design is an ongoing and iterative process. You can review customer feedback, insights, and analytics to learn what items and combos customers are ordering and which aren’t bringing in any sales.

Some essential metrics to track include these:

  • Menu to cart conversion. The percentage of times a user progresses from the menu view to the cart view.

  • Average order size. The sum of all food item prices in the cart.

  • Order accuracy defect rate. The percentage of times a customer reports an incomplete order or a missing item.

  • Special instructions rate. The percentage of times someone submits a special instruction with their order.

As you track these metrics (which is particularly easy using insights and analytics in Uber Eats Manager), you’ll have a better idea of how you can make menu improvements moving forward.

Design and publish your online menu with Uber Eats

The thought of creating an online menu may bring about a big headache and a slew of questions. Do you have to know how to code to make an online menu? Can you capture beautiful pictures if you’re not a photographer? What if you pick the wrong font? Can you easily update items when your menu changes?

Good news: Uber Eats provides merchants with Menu Maker to help you easily create and update great menus in just a few steps. “With our tool,” says Chavarria, “you can actually go in and make adjustments yourself. The self-serve quality gives you a sense of empowerment, and you save money by not needing to hire someone else to do it.”

“Menu Maker is a robust tool. You can easily create your menus, change your pricing, update items, and more. The best part is, you never have to wait for Support to help you. You can make any and all changes yourself in the Menu tab of your Uber Eats Manager dashboard”

Letty Chavarria, Account Executive, Uber Eats

Ready to start building a standout menu on Uber Eats? If you’re already listing your business on the Uber Eats marketplace, sign in to Uber Eats Manager and navigate to the Menu tab to start. If you’re new to Uber Eats, learn more about using Menu Maker and the services available to help you grow your business. We also offer POS integration through a number of leading technology partners around the world, allowing you to manage and update your Uber Eats menu from your existing POS device.

*Based on internal data from 2022 comparing a sample of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the US and Canada. Controlling for merchant rating, duration on platform, and order volume yielded similar results.

**The coordination of professional photography is currently available to businesses in the Asia-Pacific region, Canada, Europe, and the US. We offer standard and large photo shoot packages, depending on your needs. Only SMBs that are not integrated through a POS partner are eligible to schedule a photo shoot.

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