Serving Up Menu Design Ideas

Restaurant menus have never been more diverse, descriptive or numerous. If you design menus, how do you create a piece that is both decorative and strategic, to entice patrons and help your client’s sales?

To update a previous exploration of this topic, Neenah commissioned Ellie McKenzie of Farmhouse Design and Gregg Rapp of Menu Technologies to team up with Fey Printing. The resulting demonstration serves up the subject on a very fresh level, marrying menu design and paper.

NEENAH-MENU-FORE-EDGES-5inches©2014 StudioAlex

The resulting spiral-bound book, titled simply Menu Design, is a feast for the eyes. It’s tactile and interactive, presenting three detached menus (in handy pockets) amidst 32 pages of layout diagrams, cover options, tips, tools, and a trade secret or two from Rapp. Menu Design illuminates what drives patrons’ choices and also includes a refresher of branding basics, asking the classic questions about the intended audience.

NEENAH-MENU-INSIDE-TABS-5inches©2014 StudioAlex

The Contents: Generous Tips

Gregg Rapp is a career menu engineer, advising restaurant groups across the country and across the spectrum — from Subway to the Four Seasons — about maximizing profits through menu design. His insights are practical and compelling, from where on a menu to list the most profitable item, to why leaving off the dollar sign makes sense. The way many restaurants list their prices literally drives Rapp dotty. He asserts, “Using a dotted line with an even right-hand margin calls attention to the prices. You want the customer to read the entrée description before looking at the cost. And prices should be in the same typeface as the entrée description.”

As for how a menu cover sets the mood, Rapp comments, “A menu is a welcome to the restaurant experience. It’s your impression for the brand. When a restaurant chain wants to put a photo of a slab of ribs or a burger on their menu cover, I say, ‘Neither! Let the patrons relax into the menu. Don’t hard sell before they settle in.’ The paper — its look and its feel — is a big part of the pacing.”

menu-promo_011-5inchesThe CLASSIC® color wheel and tipped-on color dots

The Printing: Variety + Tactility

Menu Design demonstrates CMYK printing on a broad range of weights and textures, using both traditional offset and digital presses. Kristopher Gasch, director of marketing at Fey Printing, points out that digital printing (in Fey’s case, on an HP Indigo) is a great boon for high-quality, low-quantity menus. “You can run menus and other restaurant collateral on a 12 x 18-inch sheet. For limited quantities, a traditional offset press would be much more costly in terms of make-ready and waste. Digital involves less set up, less spoilage, less time on press.”

menu_promo_piecesSample menu and postcard for The Yum Yum Club

Menu Design also shows off straight spot-color printing, on the menu inserts and on several spreads. McKenzie says, “Paper that provides interest in terms of color or texture, plus simple printing — just one or two ink colors – adds up to a menu that is tactile and engaging. It’s not only an economical approach, but can also enhance a restaurant’s character.”


Black foil stamping on black stock. Cheese digitally printed on a sliver of pearlescent linen-finish stock. Two-color bistro menu with hidden-staple binding.

Specialty techniques are showcased as well, with touches of foil stamping, a silver-engraved tip-on, and a very large registered emboss (7.5 x 10 inches) all catching the light and the eye.

See It All

Request a copy of Menu Design directly from your Neenah rep or your Neenah paper distributor.

Except as noted, photos courtesy of Ellie McKenzie, Farmhouse Design