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5 Tips For Writing Great Menu Descriptions

Master chefs have said it for years: we eat with our eyes first. Science has confirmed this. According to Amy Brown Ph.D., R.D., “how a food looks is one of the first sensory criteria that we use to make decisions about the foods we eat.” 

When customers are ordering online this is even more important. And while you can’t have a picture for every menu item, you can create tantalizing descriptions that make your customer’s mouths water and motivate them to buy more. More tickets, more profits. That’s something every restaurant owner can get behind.

Writing great menu descriptions isn’t hard, but it does take some time and planning. Don’t expect it to happen overnight.

Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is the key to writing great menu descriptions. Your descriptions need to resonate with your audience. It doesn’t matter how pretty they are. If your audience doesn’t like them, you won’t sell food. Conversely, getting them right can lead to an increase in sales.

In fact, a recent study suggests that longer, accurate descriptions can lead to 30% more sales. 

So, how do you get to know your audience?

Do ask these questions:

  • How old are they? Why do they want to eat at your restaurant?
  • What’s appealing about your cuisine?
  • Are they primarily male or female?
  • Are they married or single?
  • Do they have kids?

Don’t:

  • Make assumptions
  • Look at things as a restaurant owner

Keep Descriptions Short

No one wants to read two paragraphs about a meal. The shorter your descriptions the easier it is for them to process what they’ve read and make a decision. As you’re writing out the descriptions for your meals, make it a point to read over them and look for positive and negative words.

Consider how different someone would perceive something if described as burnt as opposed to blackened, or mushy instead of tender. Words matter!

  • Tender chicken breast served atop pasta in a velvety vodka sauce
  • A light soup featuring onions caramelized for 12 hours with homemade beef stock and served with a hearty piece of oven fresh French bread

One of the best ways to do this is to have the chef write a description and then try translating that into layman’s terms.

Pay Attention to Your Words

Every word you use matters and makes a difference. And the words you use will depend on the type of restaurant you have and who your target audience is. A college student might not care if a chicken dish is described as “succulent”. They’re more likely to want to focus on the amount of food they’re getting as opposed to the quality.

Do:

  • Use adjectives like tender, succulent, etc.
  • Use cultural/geographic terms like Italian, Indian, etc.
  • Rely on nostalgic terms–just like mom used to make, like grandma’s, etc.
  • Use buzz words–locally sourced, free range, etc.

Do not:

  • Get too flowery–make sure people can understand what you write
  • Lie–don’t say something is organic or locally sourced if it isn’t
  • Try too hard–you don’t need to write like Maya Angelou

Take Quality Pictures

If there’s one thing having a camera on every phone has done it’s increase the number of mediocre food pictures floating around the web. We’re not saying that using your phone to take food pictures is a bad thing, most phones have great cameras on them. 

What we are saying is to be intentional about the pictures you’re taking. Don’t just snap a picture and think you’re done. 

Your food is the star of the picture and because of that it needs to be given the respect that comes from an artfully posed picture. Plus, the more planned your picture the more appetizing your food. The more appetizing your food the more likely people are to want to order from you.

Photos can increase conversions anywhere from 10%-20%. They’re worth it.

Do:

  • Take photos under natural light. … 
  • Move around to find the best light source.. … 
  • Try taking photos from multiple angles. … 
  • Minimize clutter.

Do Not:

  • Do not use flash or overhead lighting
  • Don’t feel like every picture needs to be taken in the kitchen or at a dining table

Follow a Template

Every description you write should follow a template so that you hit important points that customers will want to know. This also helps expedite the writing process.

Here’s what we suggest:

  • Menu item name
  • Ingredients
  • Copy

Example 1

Chicken Tikka > Tender chicken breasts marinated in a spicy yogurt sauce, then grilled to perfect over an open flame.

Example 2

Margherita Pizza > Homemade pizza dough risen to perfection, then topped with marinara sauce that will take you straight to Italy, as well as fresh basil and housemade mozzarella.

eHungry is an affordable online ordering solution for restaurants that allows you to customize your online ordering site with pictures and custom menu descriptions. Learn more here.