I don’t like reading menus. It’s rare to find one that’s more than a sprawling list of options or a cacophony of foodie buzzwords. Whether in a restaurant, where a server may not always be within speaking distance, or at home without a restaurant staff at all, a menu is my only constant supply of information from your pizzeria. Does yours do the job?
Descriptions. I like item descriptions but don’t go overboard with flowery language or I’ll think you’re trying to compensate for subpar food. Just give me the facts and I’ll take it from there. If there’s a house favorite or an item you’re particularly well known for, let me know the details and there’s a good chance I’ll order it. Also be sure to indicate what items are clear for vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free guests.
Organization. Pizza may seem like a singular food item but it can be separated into several different categories to help your customers find what they’re looking for. I like when classics are grouped together and specialty pies are in their own space. It’s incredibly helpful when red and white pizzas are categorized separately so I don’t have to wait for my server to find out whether or not there’s tomato on a pie.
Typeface. Never under-estimate the power of bad type. You’ve spent too much time organizing your menu to ruin it all with a distracting font. Keep it simple so I don’t have to waste time deciphering text. You can still convey the vibe of your restaurant, but not at the cost of clarity. Above all, do not use an ornate font for your menu or I’ll assume the food will be the exact opposite of fancy.
Bad Photos. You don’t need to show me pictures of your food — they just make a menu look cheap. If you absolutely must include photos, please make sure to use your own food. Stock photos always look overly styled and imply that you aren’t confident enough to show off the real goods. If you’re taking your own photos, be sure to hire a professional photographer or find a talented amateur. Every time I see a sloppy slice poorly framed with a nasty flash reflection my stomach shivers a bit.
Claims. I’m all for sharing praises from the press, but I get very suspicious when I see an unacknowledged claim. Who ranked your pizza No. 1 in the city? What critic called your breadsticks the best in town? I hate to be cynical but if I don’t know who said it I’ll assume it’s just a quote from the owner.
Contact. It should be obvious, but make sure your contact information is clearly listed on the front of your take-out menu. Give me your address, phone number and Web site so I know how to get in touch. Include your social media links as well as logos for any third party online ordering companies with whom you work. If you’re in a neighborhood that gets tourist traffic, include a small map so they can find you as easily as possible.
After all, menus are about making it easy for your customers to find something they’ll like and keep them coming back for more.
Scott Wiener owns and operates Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City.