Keep it short and sweet
I grew up in New Jersey, a.k.a. The Diner State. One of the prerequisites for a good diner is an obscenely thick menu, most of which is cluttered with sterile stock photos of dishes you’d never think to order. Although I’ve never desired a late-night surf ‘n’ turf, the diner experience just wouldn’t be complete without its presence on the menu. As much as I love the robust nature of a Jersey diner menu, I feel quite the opposite when it comes to pizzerias.
My ideal menu is short and sweet. If you offer predesigned pies, try to keep variations to a minimum or I may suffer from menu fatigue. A dozen or so options is perfect because it streamlines my decision making process. That’s a big plus for you because it minimizes the amount of time I’m taking up at one of your tables.
I’m a big fan of menus that are organized by pizza type. A pizzeria that offers multiple styles (Sicilian, thin crust, Roman, pan pizzas, etc.) is risking major customer confusion by overcrowding their menu space. It might even boost your bottom line to split styles. When I see separate sections for red and white pizzas I’m almost definitely going to order one from each. If you have any house specialties, either note them in parentheses or put them in a separate section. I always ask if there’s a pizza I shouldn’t miss, but indicating such on the menu makes it so much easier to determine than tracking down a well-informed server.
I see a lot of menus with overly detailed descriptions of each item. Rather than wasting all that space with blabber about the name of the farmer who milked the cow to make the curds used in your mozzarella, just list the ingredients as simply and clearly as possible. You can always arm your servers with deeper information about each menu item just in case I ask a question that isn’t answered by the menu. Come tip time, I’ll remember how much I appreciated her depth of knowledge and she’ll end up with more money in her pocket!
You definitely don’t want to clog up your page, but simple identifiers for common allergies and food aversions will save you a lot of grief. You’d think it’s enough to simply list your toppings but you’re still going to get questions from concerned customers who want to know if there’s anchovy in the Caesar salad or gluten in the pepperoni. Eliminate potential health concerns and put your customers at ease by researching your ingredients and accurately indicating vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, and kosher selections.
The physical design of a menu is just as important as its content. Contrary to my position on diners, I’m strongly against featuring poorly lit stock photos of food on pizzeria menus. It’s also a turn-off when I see attempts at high design via arty font selection. I will instantly lose my appetite if I see Comic Sans or Papyrus on the page. If you only follow one piece of advice in this column, please make this the one. Keep your menu simple so I can make my decision and get to the most important part of visiting your restaurant –– eating your delicious
Scott Wiener owns and operates Scott’s Pizza Tours in New York City.