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How to make going digital, desirable.

4 Tips for Mouth-Watering Digital Menu Design

This article looks at professional tips on creating a genuinely appetising digital menu design. Bring your customer's senses alive and make your profits soar.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022


We all know that food is so much more than fuel for our bodies. There are complex biological processes and psychological factors at play to make us want to eat, and it’s a sensory experience that’s about more than simply being hungry. As one health expert puts it:

“It’s the smell of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and the memory of your grandmother. It’s making hot cocoa for your kids and the reminder of how your Mom or Dad made it for you on a snow day. It’s homemade nachos and the memory of that crazy night with your homeboys (or homegirl). It’s an omelet and you remember your first attempt at trying to create a healthy breakfast for yourself.”

For food businesses and restaurants, these are key insights that can be tapped into for advertising and marketing products and meal choices to customers. Utilising the power of psychology and the sensory connections we all have between our brain and the food we eat, you can please your diners while increasing your profits. With all this in mind, how about starting by creating some winning digital menu designs.

Here are four tips and tricks you could consider:

1.      Food lighting vs mood lighting

Restaurant lighting design is a key component of the atmosphere you wish to create, but it can also affect the bottom line. Bright lights will lead to faster table turnover times, meaning you can seat more people and make more sales. Low lighting invites longer lingering over cosy dinners, meaning your waiting staff will work harder to upsell to keep profit margins high. As one lighting specialist elucidates:

“A romantic steakhouse usually has dim mood lighting enhanced with tabletop candles or lanterns. This emits a come and stay a while aura, which can encourage people to have the dessert and another glass of wine. Conversely, a fast-casual establishment is focused on getting people in and out the door, so bright lights encourage fast-paced feasting. Order your food on the assembly line, eat it, and move on.”

Either way, your digital menu board must be bright enough to be inviting and easy to read, enabling quick decision-making and fast ordering by your customers. Psychologically speaking, well-lit digital signage prepares the brain for the job at hand: it helps to increase hunger in preparation for the meal ahead.

2.      Colours to make the mouth water

You’ve heard the expression “a feast for the eyes” but did you know that certain colours can increase appetite while others can suppress it? Colour plays a key role in our likes and dislikes, and food is no exception. Blue, for instance, is not recognised by our brain as a natural colour for food, so it won’t signal hunger signs when we see it. In fact, it can cause us to lose our appetite. It’s why restaurants are typically advised to avoid the colour blue. As one restaurateur points out:

“Strategic colour is one of the most powerful tools for restaurants to use to convey an enjoyable dining experience. The selection of the right colour is very important, as it can make diners feel a wide range of emotions from very energised to relaxed, and everything in between.”

For your menu, shades of red should be used in key places (except for pricing!) as the eye is naturally drawn to this colour first. Consider a red border to focus the eye, concentrate the mind and whet the appetite. Yellow can have a similar effect. Green reminds us of vegetables and signifies healthy foods, so is perfect for promoting organic foods, vegetarian/vegan options and nourishing menu choices.

3.      Pick the perfect pictures

Food photography is a huge topic and a powerful tool for promoting your menu. If you’ve ever felt your mouth water when looking at a picture of a delicious meal, you’ll know why. Physiologically speaking, what happens is that the brain sends a signal to the stomach to prepare it for eating. Using photos on your digital menu board is going to entice customers, make them feel hungry and lead them to make an order – as long as it’s done properly. As one photography expert explains:

“A picture may be worth a thousand words, but photos help you express yourself and your brand in ways nothing else (not even words) can. Sometimes a striking visual is all you need to impress consumers.”

Using pictures strategically is the way to go. Too many photos and the brain becomes confused and won’t know where to look first, which not only affects the customer’s overall experience but prolongs the time it takes to place an order. In addition, you can use carefully placed photography to encourage upsells. Choose a stunning image of your biggest ticket item placed along the top of your digital signage menu, and within the menu section that the item belongs to. Embracing digitalisation by creating a digital menu can have many benefits and a positive impact on your restaurant overall.

4.      Food is the language of love

For the complete customer experience when it comes to your menu board, evocative food photography should be accompanied by words and language that are just as appetizing. This is where creative content writing skills may be required to bring your dishes to life on paper. Here are a few examples, courtesy of this copywriting expert, to show how a menu description can positively prepare the mind and body for what’s to come and even make someone crave a certain item:

“Roomali Rolls: Roomali Rolls are made with delicate ‘handkerchief’ bread, baked and filled to order from midday until late at night. Best eaten with the hands.” (Dishoom)

“Pesto Salmon: Homemade pesto brings a delicious tang to a lovely grilled fillet of salmon. To complete this tasteful, wholesome dish, cut fingerling potatoes into discs and roast them along with baby carrots.” (Munchery)

Keep the language simple and to the point, making sure there are no spelling or grammatical mistakes, but engage the diner with imaginative descriptions to help them make an emotional connection and imagine what it will be like to eat the item. 

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