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The best menu designs for fast food restaurants

Lachlan Ross

December 20, 2021

A menu can be so much more than just a menu. It can be a way to advertise, to show the identity of your restaurant, and it can even be a sales vehicle — but only if it’s well-designed. Fortunately, there are certain design tips that work on human psychology in order to draw the eye and incentivize spending. Here is a list of ideas for menu designs that can make a significant difference for your fast food restaurant and your customers.

Make your menu dynamic with digital menu designs

Fast food restaurants benefit greatly from digital menus and digital signage. Digital menu boards allow you to include videos, graphics, and illustrations that will have your guests’ stomachs rumbling before they even get a whiff of the burgers. While fancy restaurants may benefit from simple lettering and sparse photos on their menu, fast food restaurants have a chance to be bold and show off all the cravings that keep people coming back.
menu designs
Digital Menu Board

Higher profit items in the upper left

Studies show that when we read a menu, we approach it like a book, starting at the upper left. Other popular areas of a menu for the eyes to land on are the center, and the upper right. Other studies have pointed out that one third of restaurant-goers simply order the first item they see on a menu. So making sure that the first item a guest sees is a more expensive item can increase your sales in that area. Use this to your advantage by picking out the products that are big money-makers and placing them on the upper left where guests are more likely to look when they first arrive. If you have certain products that are particularly popular and that have wide profit margins, consider putting them in the upper left hand corner and see if it makes a difference.

Make your menu skimmable

Rarely does anyone read every single word on a restaurant menu? Your guests probably arrived hungry, and they want to skip through their options before landing on the best one. Split your options up into big headings and logical sections, typically starting with appetizers and moving through to desserts.

Delete the dollar signs

A Cornell study found that people who were given a menu with no dollar signs on it ordered more and spent more money than people who were given menus with currency symbols. Seeing currency symbols, especially a menu covered in them, can cause negative associations with spending money and losing money. Plus, the dollar signs simply aren’t necessary– the dollar is implicit. So, just put the numbers. Instead of saying $8, just say 8. It looks clean and classy, plus it may lead to increased revenue.

Mouth-watering words

A study at Cornell University found that a menu with descriptive language can increase sales of a dish by 27%, and leads to people being more satisfied with their food when it arrives. Here are some tasty words that you can try putting on your menu:
  • Aromatic
  • Artisanal
  • Crispy
  • Crunchy
  • Delectable
  • Elegant
  • Enchanting
  • Fresh
  • Fruity
  • Full-bodied
  • Heavenly
  • Herbal
  • Home-cooked
  • Honeyed
  • Indulgent
  • Juicy
  • Lively
  • Low-fat
  • Nutty
  • Refreshing
  • Ripe
  • Roasted
  • Savory
  • Scrumptious
  • Smoky
  • Tantalizing
  • Tender
  • Velvety
  • Warm

Decision fatigue is real

People can be very finicky. We think we want many choices, but when we have many options, we often end up disappointed in our final selection. This phenomenon is called the paradox of choice. If you choose one product out of two product options, you typically feel happier with the product you chose than if you chose that same product out of 100 options. If there were one other dish available, we would forget it as soon as our order arrives. But if there were 50 options from the start, it’s harder to forget about the other 49 we didn’t try that day. Not to mention that if you have a long menu that makes it more difficult to decide, then customers will spend more time looking at the menus, and the turnover time of your tables increases. That’s why it’s important to find a sweet spot for your menu. Include enough options so that there’s something for everyone, but don’t offer so many options that it becomes overwhelming. An effective way to do this is to make each dish unique. It’s harder to choose between fried empanadas and baked empanadas than it is to choose between fried empanadas and a Ceasar salad.


Everyone has their own tastes, but with a strategic approach to crafting your menus, you can impact their buying decisions and ultimately earn more revenue. And with digital menu boards and these science-backed menu designs, your menu will be fun to read and even more fun to order from. Not to mention more profitable!
Lachlan Ross

Written by Lachlan Ross

Marketing Manager at Mandoe

I’m a SAAS-focused marketer with 10+ years of experience who likes to think I’ve got a way with words - thanks for stopping by and checking out this blog.

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