How to Design a Coffee Shop Menu

Before you begin planning out your shop, before you even select your location, you need to have an idea of what will be on your menu. This is because your space and funds will determine what you can prepare, and your demographics will determine what will sell.

Legal Issues: Remember that you need to make ingredients available to people if they ask. This is crucial for people on special diets and people with allergies. Also, if you indicate on your menu that any items are “healthy,” you must comply with FDA regulations regarding the definition of healthy.

Another consideration, before you set you heart on what you’ll be serving, is to consider health code restrictions in your area. Some communities have strict guidelines about what kind of food can be served where. Be sure you are familiar with these restrictions before u you set about creating your menu.

Your Accommodations and Resources

Will you offer pre-made desserts, or will you be baking them yourself? Will you offer simple cold-cut sandwiches, or do you intend to offer a fancy menu? Anything beyond pre-made items will increase the space you need for food storage, prep, and clean-up.

Offering a menu with expanded items may also attract more customers and increase your profits. However, it introduces new expenses, ranging from additional equipment and square footage to food and production costs. If you plan to initially run the shop without assistance, it’s probably best to start out with a few bakery items.

Even with a small space, you can still be creative with your offerings. Fresh fruit, when in season, can be an economical and attractive light dish to offer that requires little room to prepare or store. Upscale establishments can also offer artisan bread, specialty cheese and meat plates, or bruschetta. Again, these items require little room or time to prepare, but they can go far in attracting and retaining customers.

Your Market

Your core business and the market you are targeting will help you determine what to sell.

¨ Will you be catering to a high commuter crowd? Then offer drinks and grab-n-go breakfast items.

¨ Do you want to attract college students? Then keep prices down with less expensive options that fit a college student’s budget.

¨ If business people are your cornerstone, then consider offering lunchtime options to attract this crowd after the morning rush.

¨ If you are in a more trendy location, you can offer upscale items with matching prices.

¨ Are you near a residential area, or will you be targeting busy parents? Then consider offering child-friendly items, even a children’s menu.

Also, look at how you are serving food. Are you using disposable plates with to-go cups? Then people aren’t going to pay $8.00 a plate for specialty cheeses, no matter how fancy the selection. You need to reinforce the sense of value the higher priced you go.

Menu Design

When you go out to a restaurant, you might scan for descriptions and prices. But have you ever studied the design? What catches your eye, what is most memorable after you shut the menu?

There is a whole strategy to designing a menu, all aimed at pushing higher-margin items to customers. No matter the size of your menu, you may want to consider employing this psychology when developing your own menus. These strategies apply whether you use an overhead board, a paper menu, or both. A few of the basics are touched on here; an excellent resource for more information is The Food Service Professional Guide to Food Service Menus, by Lora Arduser. Look for opportunities to:

¨ Highlight low cost or high profit items with boxes or changes in font and color.

¨ End prices in odd numbers, or price just under ($3.95 instead of $4.00) to take advantage of the perception that it’s lower cost.

¨ Use white space and avoid clutter. Reinforce your shop’s brand in the menu design.

¨ If you use a single-panel menu, place more profitable items at the top of the page.

¨ If you use a two-panel menu, place more profitable items on the left-hand page (because we read left to right).

¨ If you use a three-panel menu, place the more profitable items in the center panel, because this is the first thing customers read.

Your espresso-based drinks are going to offer higher margins than your drip coffee drinks, so you will want to consider placing these in a prominent location on the menu.

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