Have you ever found yourself perusing menus and restaurant websites to familiarize yourself with their message and what they serve, only to find their content is not quite what you expect? Over the years, I have found so many materials riddled with misspelled and misused words, punctuation where it doesn’t belong, glaring fonts, and ghastly pictures, and it’s particularly discouraging. Don’t get me wrong: great food, exemplary service, ambiance, and a spotless physical location are absolutely crucial, yet having well written, grammatically correct materials should be regarded as equally significant in the operation of any successful restaurant or foodservice establishment.
Never fear! Hope is not lost! When it comes to tricks of the trade, consider me your fairy godmother (or drill sergeant), waving my wand and bringing in the necessary reinforcements. Here is some food for thought when creating menus and supplementary materials to give them the punch they need!
Use descriptive language to highlight your products or establishment.
There is a lot of competition out there, so you want to fashion something that will make your enterprise stand out from the crowd! Rather than use simple terms that every Tom, Dick, and Harry throws in their materials, spice it up with adjectives! “Delicately seasoned and breaded chicken tenderloins nestled in freshly baked bread” sounds much more appetizing and fancy than “chicken fingers on a roll”.
As the old saying goes, “eye appeal is buy appeal”, and you can be sure I am paying close attention to how companies portray themselves when it comes to service and marketing materials. I went to a venue many years ago with friends who are also conscious of these areas (we are all card carrying members of the grammar squad). As I was looking over the menu, I spotted something within the product description for what sounded like a gorgeous salad. Instead of the proper culinary term to describe the main ingredient, they used a word that does sound similar, but has an entirely different meaning.
Before I progress with this story, this would be a good time to interject and clarify some important pieces of information.
Mesclun describes a salad comprised of mixed greens.
Masculine denotes something or someone possessing traditionally male traits and characteristics.
You guessed it. The latter was what appeared on the menu. When I saw it, a light bulb went off in my journalistic (thus, critical) brain, quickly turning into disbelief, shock, and probably followed by a good laugh. I absolutely could not fathom that such a blatant blunder was not caught. After I pointed out what I found to my dining companions, my friend cleverly commented that it must be one “manly” salad, and we ended up in a debate on whether we should inform the management of their grave mistake, which was ultimately decided against. In hindsight, I wish that upon my exit, I had.
Suffice to say, lack of proofreading resulted in a foolish error in word choice, which put me off from ordering from this establishment (in all honesty, I don’t recall if we ended up getting food or leaving). When menus contain these types of errors, it just does not send the best message to prospective customers. Pizzeria menus and websites are notorious for listing what I call the repeat offenders. How about topping your pie with a “jalepeno”? Need a side of Julius’ namesake dressing? Would you like “Ceasar” or “Ceaser”? Those juicy spheres of ground beef that go great with spaghetti? “Meetballs”. In today’s cost conscious society, where new restaurants come and go faster than the pet rock trend, consumers are fickle, and count on a certain level of professionalism from any business they choose to patronize. If thorough care and thought are not put into these materials, it could reflect poorly on the business, and may have customers questioning what else has been overlooked. Materials that are aesthetically pleasing and free from grammatical errors and typos not only present your vision positively, but can prevent embarrassing situations like the ones above from occurring. That being said…
Proofread your menus, supplementary and marketing materials, and website content before printing and publishing.
I cannot stress this enough! Your computer program’s spell check function and an eagle eye will be your best friends! Many stylebooks used by writers and journalists break down rules of grammar, so you can be cognizant of capitalization and punctuation, as well as spelling. It is a fairly simple task and will definitely save you money and energy in the long run. If this is not your strong suit, consult your printer or website developer to see if they offer copyediting services. Take it from me, I didn’t want to eat a masculine salad back then, and definitely don’t want to now.
Now that your copy is up to par, you need photos and graphics to complement your marketing materials, menus, and website, so everything is tied together in one beautiful package! You don’t need to hire a high fashion photographer that shoots for Vogue, but…
Use the best pictures and graphics possible when designing your menus and website.
If you are taking photos of your meals, make sure the presentation is flawless! No one wants to see a gloppy mess on a plate. Check the resolution and background when it comes to your graphics and photos for the most flattering display. Make sure fonts on materials are clean and legible, allowing readers to follow along easily, without straining their eyes! If I find a website that is way too busy, with hard to read fonts and horrific photos, that’s a detriment!
If everything is in line and reaching your target demographic, be sure that you do not forget to apply what you’ve learned for any future endeavors! Styles, tastes, and technology constantly change, so marketing and public relations strategies are absolutely impacted by them. What can you do to stay ahead of the game?
Update menus, promo materials, and websites periodically for maximum marketing power.
If you still have the same menu from 1978, it may be time for a change. How about introducing a long standing family recipe that no restaurant in the area serves as a weekly special? Looking to bring in a new dessert? Create an online promotion that allows the first 10 new customers to tag your restaurant on social media a free slice of said dessert! Then get their feedback! Interested in introducing gluten free items to your menu? Familiarize yourself with info on gluten sensitivities and allergies. Keeping abreast of the latest trends allows you to show existing and new customers that you want to remain a mover and a shaker in the restaurant and foodservice realm! New ideas= loyal and new clientele!
So there you have it! As the restaurant and foodservice industry has a high turnover rate, following these tips does give you an edge against your competitors. From checking your materials for spelling and word flow to new promotions and updating websites, the importance of maintaining an active and positive profile in the restaurant and foodservice circuit certainly allows for success! After all, knowledge is power and you cannot have enough!