Your Step-By-Step Guide to Creating a Successful Menu

Posted by Natalie Korz

Natalie is the Technical Writer for SpeedLine Solutions. Her adoration for pizza goes all the way back to the early days of her childhood when her family used to have Friday Pizza Nights and watch America's Funniest Home Videos.

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You’ve decided to open a pizza restaurant. How exciting! With some important decisions ahead, a key aspect will be crafting the perfect menu for your restaurant. A structured framework makes decisions like using locally sourced ingredients, the best types of packaging for delivery, and whether to have a kids menu less overwhelming. We’ve curated a straightforward guide on creating a menu for your restaurant (complete with examples).

1. Identify Your Target Audience

Understanding your customer base is the foundation of a great menu. Conduct restaurant market research to learn about your potential customers' preferences, demographics, and dining habits. Over time, a pizza POS system can help you analyze sales data to identify your top-selling items and customer favorites. Start by researching what other restaurants are doing in your area. For example, see if other pizzerias offer gluten-free options, then consider the strategy behind their decision. Never make assumptions about your customers that you can’t test and prove!


2. Make a List of all Your Menu Items

Take the time to write out all the dishes you want on your menu, from mains and sides to desserts and drinks. Depending on your thought style, this could be on a good old-fashioned pad of paper, a Google Doc, or an Excel spreadsheet. Make it extensive, so when you come back later everything is there.


3. Organize Your Menu Items into Categories

Develop clear sections, and begin sorting your dishes and items into these categories. Examples include appetizers, salads, pizzas, pasta, drinks, and desserts. Every restaurant has slightly different variations, but most will use this framework. Now, think about how you’ll market your dishes to customers. For example, you want to offer salads, but will they be sold as a standalone meal or just a side dish?


4. Create Your Pricing Structure

Developing your pricing structure will comprise the bulk of your time when creating your menu. Start by identifying your desired food cost percentage (the percentage of a menu item’s price spent to purchase and prepare it). For reference, the average food cost percentage rate is anywhere from 28-35%. From here, you’ll need to research and calculate the cost of goods sold (COGS) to create each menu item. For example, chicken wings consist of chicken, seasoning, and sauces. Now, you can determine how to calculate the price of each food item by dividing the COGS by the ideal food cost. 

Strike a balance with pricing that covers your costs and delivers a reasonable profit margin. Refer to industry standards to get an idea of what others are offering for similar dishes. Over time, you can utilize your pizza POS system’s pricing analysis tools to set competitive pricing while maximizing profits.

Speedy Tip

Build relationships with local food vendors to see where you can get the highest quality ingredients for the most reasonable price.


5. Craft Tantalizing Descriptions

Descriptions are a key part of your customers deciding what to order. A study by Cornell University found that descriptive words can boost sales by 27%. A few good rules to help you get started include:

  • Include adjectives that tantalize the senses (like slow-roasted, creamy, zesty, or rich)
  • Appeal to emotion and familiarity through a recipe’s backstory 
  • Use your location or community references to help suggest quality
  • Highlight unique ingredients or preparation methods

A dish title that combines these rules could look something like: "Home-style, stone oven pepperoni pizza." Although it’s important to include descriptions of your dishes, it’s also important to remember that less is more: customers only spend an average of 109 seconds reading your menu before they make a decision.


6. Use Mouthwatering Photos

People are visual by nature; research shows that adding professional photos to your menu can increase sales by as much as 65%. Your restaurant’s menu needs photos, but if you’re on a budget, be sure to follow these basic rules for taking your own photos:

  • Experiment with the best angle
  • Maintain a consistent style across your dishes
  • Use natural lighting (and avoid flash)
  • Add a touch of oil or water to help make your dish “pop”
  • Use the rule of thirds technique
  • Never draw attention away from your dish


7. Bring it all Together

Hire a designer to create a mockup of your vision or create your own with user-friendly design tools like Canva. Online ordering software like SpeedDine seamlessly integrates with your existing pizza POS to offer a comprehensive online ordering site customized to your brand. Designed for pizza and mobile-friendly, restaurants can easily apply their logo, brand colors, and choose a design layout and categories that best fit their restaurant’s needs.


8. Promote Your Menu

Once your menu is ready, it’s time to promote it. Referring back to the research you did in step 1, what channels are your customers most likely to be receptive to your marketing tactics? For example, you might market more heavily through TikTok and Snapchat since these platforms are the most popular with Gen Zs, and you're close to high schools and universities. In contrast, Facebook posts and television advertisements may be better for families and adults. As you hone your branding and voice, you can also use your pizza POS system’s marketing capabilities to reach out through email campaigns, and offer exclusive loyalty program rewards.


9. Test and Update

Regularly review and update your menu based on sales data and customer feedback. Use restaurant reporting and analytics software to review your key performance indicators (KPIs) and drill into the underlying data for insights. Perhaps a dish is performing better than expected and should be featured. Or maybe a menu item is more expensive to make than anticipated and should be removed from the menu. Each data point offers a lesson to be learned over time, so you can continue optimizing your restaurant’s menu.



Creating an appealing restaurant menu involves careful planning, creativity, and attention to detail. By knowing your audience, defining your concept, offering variety, and utilizing the features of a pizza POS system, you can create a menu that not only satisfies your customers' cravings but also boosts your restaurant's profitability. By following these 9 steps, you'll be well on your way to creating a menu that leaves a lasting impression on your customers and keeps them coming back for more. Good luck!

To learn more about optimizing your menu with high-profit dishes, read 7 Steps to Perfecting Your Restaurant's Menu.

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Posted on Fri, Sep 22, 2023 @ 08:09 AM.
Updated on September 22, 2023 @ 3:00 PM PST.

Tags: Menu Management, Menu Pricing, Food Photography, Menu Photography

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