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Crafting Compelling Menu Descriptions to Boost Sales

June 08, 202313 min read

“The problem with most restaurants is that they create a lifeless list of items on a menu that do not achieve any marketing objective.” - Adrienne Yu


A menu is probably the first thing a restaurant owner thinks about before commencing operations. It is the roadmap that helps your customers to know what to expect in your restaurant. Every restaurant owner aims to draw customers to their establishment with mouth-watering dishes displayed on their menu.

The problem with most restaurants is that they create a lifeless list of items on a menu that do not achieve any marketing objective. It beats logic because menu descriptions enable you to tell your customers about your restaurant’s passion. It is important to invest in menu creation since it impacts your establishment’s reputation and profits.

Instead of copying menu templates online that do not represent your restaurant’s heart and soul, you could hire professionals to write you fancy food descriptions and a menu that sells. Studies indicate that a well-written menu can significantly improve your sales and enhance your reputation.

Before we consider how to write selling menu descriptions, let’s discuss the importance of menu descriptions.

Write Menu Description That Sell

Benefits of a menu item descriptions

Most beginner restaurateurs view the menu as an important food list that waiters and waitresses can replace. However, experienced, savvy restaurateurs know that a menu can break or make a restaurant.

Some researchers were interested in knowing the impact of an appetizing menu description on customers spending at a restaurant. The study found that menu descriptions accounted for 45% of buying decisions for certain dishes.

Menu description also affects how potential customers view your services' quality. This is especially true with online menus. If your menu is rich with compelling food pictures and appetizing descriptions, customers will likely want to visit your restaurant or order online.

On the other hand, flat menus with a lifeless food list and blurred pictures tell your customers that your brand, food, and environment are mediocre. Menu descriptions can affect your reputation, sales, and bottom line.

It is important to look for ideal description words that could strike an accord with customers and encourage them to buy. Some factors that influence a customer in selecting a dish on the menu include descriptions that:

  • Explain the ingredients used in the local language

  • Identify the dish as local

  • Use sensory expressions

  • Promote a sense of a region

  • Provide proof of use of organic ingredients

  • Include sentimental references

If you lack the words and creativity to put these ideas into your food descriptions, we help you with the dos and don'ts to create a powerful menu that can move food from the kitchen to the customers' stomachs in no time.

Here are Some Benefits of Investing in Menu Development:

1. It allows your restaurant to differentiate itself from the competition.

An exquisite menu description helps you to take a simple dish and make it look better than what your competitors offer across the street. The restaurant industry is very competitive, and product differentiation can give an edge in the market. Though a stellar menu description will not cover bad food, customers will shift to your restaurant if they believe you offer something they cannot find elsewhere. Therefore, a good menu description can increase traffic to your restaurant.

2. A fantastic menu description encourages guests, contributing to repeat business.

If your food description on the menu matches the taste, customers will not resist your food. Once they buy, the chances are high that they will come again for more in the future. Just make sure you cook quality meals that meet the irresistible description; you do not want your customers to feel cheated by the menu!

3. Good menu descriptions could help you sell more to a client at a given sitting.

Most of us have ordered extra food we did not plan on eating when we see its description on the menu while having what we ordered. Customers often spend approximately 90 seconds going over a poorly written menu due to confusion to locate what they need. Good descriptions take less time to read and identify additional items they can order within 90 seconds.

We have thus far considered the value of presenting your restaurant's dishes on a menu. Let's not consider how to write menu descriptions regardless of your establishment. This guide can help every restaurant owner, from hotdog stand owners to high-end restaurants.

Note: Adjust your language to suit your audience. Your menu description should differentiate your dishes, encourage your customers to buy, and make it easy for them to locate dishes and order more.

How to Write a Restaurant's Menu Description that Sells More:

Though a menu helps the customer to know what you offer, an elaborate description entices customers to buy more from your restaurant. You are not just satisfied with a customer's entrance into your restaurant; you want them to buy more than they anticipated. Here is how you make them do that.

1. Use long menu descriptions to trigger your customers’ senses.

Some people can describe food to you that you drool even before arriving at the restaurant. This is because our brains have the perceptive power to visualize word pictures. Your menu should stimulate your customers' brains and move them to buy. But how do you write it?

Each item on the menu should have an eye-catching name and a persuasive description or list of ingredients. The name of the dish should not be complicated. Your clients should know what each item means without reading the entire description.

Caution: You need to balance the length of your description needed to convince a customer they are getting value from the dish and losing their attention. A menu description is not an essay or speech. It should be short but with an adequate description to entice your customers.

As you write the menu, meditate on what makes every dish distinct. What adjectives best describe the taste, smell, cooking method, and texture? Consider the following:

  • Vegetables- you could use fresh, zesty, and earthly to describe them.

  • Meat- how about using spicy, smoky, tender, lean, juicy, grass-fed, or aged to describe it on the menu.

  • Sauces- these could be sour, sweet, tangy, bitter, rich, or fruity

Don’t worry if you cannot find a catchy adjective for every ingredient. The golden rule here is to focus on the dish’s overall value and important ingredients.

Now let’s consider an example of an item in two different menus to see which one is well-written. You will learn what to do and what you shouldn't do through this example.

Correctly written:

Wild Mushroom Cream Soup $8.00

Different hand-picked mushrooms prepared to perfection, topped with velvety cream, and served with freshly chopped scallion.

Poorly written

Mushroom Soup $8.00

Wild mushrooms, sour cream, scallions.

The poorly written description leaves more to be desired, while the correctly written description whets your customers’ appetite to try this soup even if they only came in for beef and some salad.

If you are not creative enough or can't coin unique adjectives to sell your menu, you can turn to technology and rely on established tools to help you generate these adjectives depending on the words you key in.

2. Include location in your description to suggest quality.

Wine samplers know that wine is quality if the description shows that it comes from certain regions in France. You can use the same criteria to show your food quality by highlighting where you source your ingredients. If you include the region where a dish comes from, it justifies its pricing and suggests quality.

Most dinners know that a recipe that describes the source makes the menu items more expensive, classy, and intriguing. This applies well if you are buying spices and additives. To include them in your description, you can ask the vendors to tell you where the ingredient comes from.

It is good to know what your regular customers like. Some are willing to pay more for locally sourced ingredients, while others love exotic ones. Let's consider an example:

Correctly written

Soy Marinated Wagyu Beef $60.0

Gracefully marbled Japanese Wagyu beef fillet (marinated in soy source for 48 hours). Soft and flavorful.

Poorly written

Japanese Marinated beef $60.0

Beef fillet marinated in soy sauce for 48 hours. Served with grilled vegetables.

Caution: Be careful with this criterion since it can backfire, scaring your customers who are unfamiliar with the terms used on the menu. You can incorporate short explanations of terms your customers may struggle to understand.

If your restaurant is high-end, you may have no problems with the original names since your clients are often well-traveled to recognize exotic dishes.

3. Incorporate customs, diet, and religion.

Globalization has made the world a small place, meaning you can serve customers from every corner of the world. If your restaurant specializes in local dishes, you can diversify to cater to specific beliefs and needs.

Today, veganism is on the rise, and your restaurant can benefit if your menu description has at least one dish in this category. If possible, and it makes sense, you can incorporate certain dishes to serve customers following religious-based diets. You could also include diets for those with health conditions such as lactose-free or gluten-free.

Consider this example:

Correctly written

Hummus Mezze

An assortment of 4 hummus plates: plain with avocado, paprika, and truffle oil. Vegan friendly.

Poorly written

Vegan Hummus Mezze

An assortment of four hummus plates: plain, with paprika, avocado, and truffle oil

If you cater to your client’s specific requirements can result in positive word of mouth within the community. Another way of being discreet with this is to use well-known symbols next to the dish to describe it.

4. Include a nostalgic backstory for the restaurant menu list.

If you went to a restaurant and saw two descriptions: “ham and mushroom pizza” and “Cindy Eddetta’s Special Pizza," which are you likely to order? The latter creates nostalgia even if you have never heard or seen Eddetta. It creates interest and can move customers to buy. Consider an example

Correctly written

Mother’s Roast Chicken

Tenderly roasted chicken, mouth-watering baked potatoes with rosemary.

Wrongly written

Roast Chicken & Potatoes

Roast chicken served with baked potatoes.

Sit down with your chef and identify recipes with a fascinating history, especially those passed from one generation to another or those from faraway places. If you can not find something nostalgic, make your own story, so long as it is based on a true experience.

Limit the number of dishes pegged on this story to three and ensure the story fits well with your overall brand.

5. Make your menu descriptions funny.

The internet is full of restaurant-related funny memes because humor sells. If you incorporate fun menu descriptions, it could trend on social media and generate free organic publicity.

A funny menu description can draw customers to your restaurant for months. Nevertheless, not all restaurants can benefit from this technique. It must blend with branding and overall tone of voice. Take a look at this example:

Correctly Written

I am no hungry burger $10.0

Classic beef with 1 patty crispy bun. No fries for you this time.

Poorly written

The poor man’s burger $10.0

Classic beef burger with 1 patty crispy bun. No fries for you this time.

You can do your entire menu with hilarious themes; just stay away from politics and religion since these topics are very sensitive. You may rub many customers the wrong way.

6. Ensure your Photos are of good quality

Some high-end restaurants avoid using pictures on their menus, especially in brick-and-mortar locations, arguing that it makes the menu list longer and carries the image of cheap fast food.

Others also reason that including pictures on the menu creates a perception in the minds of diners that the dish may not meet, thus leading to disappointment.

Nevertheless, you can use pictures to compliment your menu description, especially your online menu. Visuals can sell your food without saying much. Ensure you do not overuse them on the menu.

The Bottom Line

Menus are valuable in helping your customers know what you are selling and can also entice them to order for more. However, menu descriptions should be well-written to catch your customers' attention. It is one of your marketing avenues; therefore, take time and invest in this art.

Start your own blog checklist:

Creating a Restaurant Menu That Boosts Sales: A Comprehensive Checklist. Remember imperfect action beats inaction, get started and keep testing.

  • Understand Your Restaurant’s Brand and Concept: Your menu should reflect your restaurant's theme, whether it's an upscale French bistro, a rustic Italian trattoria, or a cozy farm-to-table spot. Understand your brand's tone of voice and unique selling points, and ensure these are mirrored in your menu descriptions.

  • Know Your Audience: Understand your target customers' preferences, dietary needs, and spending habits. If your restaurant is in a tourist area, consider including translations or explanations of local dishes.

  • Choose the Right Menu Items: Select dishes that not only align with your restaurant's concept but also have proven popularity and profitability. Include a range of items at various price points to cater to different customer budgets.

  • Create Compelling Item Names: Every dish name should be catchy, easy to remember, and provide some insight into what the dish is. Avoid overly complex or ambiguous names.

  • Write Detailed, Sensory Descriptions: Make your descriptions engaging and appetizing. Use sensory language to describe how the dish tastes, looks, and smells. Highlight unique or high-quality ingredients and cooking methods.

  • Localize Descriptions: If your ingredients are sourced locally, or if the dish is a local specialty, include this information in the description. This can add an element of authenticity and quality assurance.

  • Cater to Dietary Requirements: Clearly mark dishes that cater to dietary restrictions such as vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc. This can make the decision-making process easier for customers with specific dietary needs.

  • Introduce Storytelling: A brief story or fact about a dish can make it more intriguing and memorable. This could be the history of the dish, its cultural significance, or a fun anecdote from your restaurant.

  • Use Professional, Appetizing Photos: High-quality pictures of your dishes can greatly enhance your menu. Ensure the images are professionally shot, well-lit, and make your food look irresistible. However, do not overuse photos as it can clutter the menu.

  • Make Sure the Menu Is Easy to Read: Keep the layout clean and simple. Group similar items together and ensure the text is in a readable font size and color.

  • Consider the Price: Carefully decide on the pricing of each dish. It should reflect the quality and quantity of the food, your restaurant’s standard, and what your target customers are willing to pay.

  • Test Your Menu: Before finalizing your menu, consider testing it with a focus group or a soft opening. Gather feedback on the dish names, descriptions, pricing, and the overall layout of the menu.

  • Regularly Update Your Menu: Keep your menu fresh and exciting by introducing new dishes, removing low-performing ones, and adjusting prices as necessary.

Remember, your restaurant menu is a key marketing tool that can significantly impact your sales. Take the time to craft a menu that not only accurately represents your dishes but also entices your customers to order more.

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