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How to Make a Catering Menu Design With Examples (Free Template)

Tyler MartinezAuthor

How to Create a Catering Menu

Catering businesses use two types of menus. The first is detailed menus, usually printed or online, that sales staff use to help clients choose what dishes to purchase for their event. The second kind of menu helps event guests to navigate the food your team has prepared.

Design online menus, printed menus, and event menus for your catering business using this 10-step process. We provide tips on how to develop menus, example menus, and free, customizable catering menu templates


Catering Menu Templates

Use these catering menu templates as a starting point for your menu design or to give your menu a refresh.


The Power of Good Catering Menu Design

Menu designs for catering businesses are both powerful sales tools and an opportunity to bring guests into the experience. Keep your brand front and center when designing any menus for your catering company to increase the chance of attracting new clients. Menus are a primary expression of your catering business’s identity, so it’s important to get them just right.

How to Make a Catering Menu

Caterers often design menus for each event that they book so that they can customize each menu to the client’s preferences. Catering businesses require all kinds of menus and it is good to have some designs in your back pocket.

These 10 steps can help to build beautiful menus for every occasion. You can apply these rules to our customizable catering menu templates to expedite the process.

Write Out All Menu Items

The first step is writing out all your menu items. Before you start designing menus, use Excel, Google Sheets, or your favorite spreadsheet program to list out all of the items that your catering business offers to clients.

Building a spreadsheet of your menu items will help you to keep track of the names of menu items, their costs, and descriptions of each item. Google Sheets autosaves your work, and you can copy/paste information into your menu designs. Use our template to get started, and don’t forget to download a copy of each iteration for your records.

Categorize Menu Items

In your menu spreadsheet, categorize menu items by type. For instance, you can create sections for appetizers, entrees, desserts, and drinks. Decide what menu items work well together so that you can suggest combinations to clients. Our menu engineering worksheet can help. Remember to be flexible and work to meet clients’ needs when building menus for events.

Set Menu Prices

Setting prices for catering menu items is a little different from restaurants. Prices aren’t arbitrary and the complexities of food cost calculations warrant a deep dive. Take some time to learn how to price menu items to maximize your business’s sales and profits.

When setting menu prices for the first time, balance the cost of each dish and what customers will be willing to pay. You might even research catering costs in the area and compare your prices to similar businesses.

If you’re working from prices that are already set, think about the cost from the client’s perspective. Analyze the sales data available from your point of sale system and ask yourself if you can improve your sales strategy by tweaking prices.

Sometimes, raising menu prices is inevitable. Let customers know that small price increases support the business and your staff by helping you to provide better pay and benefits.

Learning to make data-based decisions on how to price menu items can help your catering business to thrive. New and experienced business owners alike can use our menu engineering course to increase their sales and profitability. 

Learn more about creating a catering menu pricing strategy here


Catering Menu Templates

Use these catering menu templates as a starting point for your menu design or to give your menu a refresh.


Create Menu Descriptions

Creative descriptions of your menu items will help your sales team to tell clients and their guests about your dishes. Use precise, clear language and choose adjectives carefully to appeal to the senses. Describe each dish with words like tart, creamy, spicy, savory, and fresh.

Some businesses hire a copywriter, but the best menu descriptions tell the guest about the story of each dish. Tell potential clients a little about where the recipe came from or how you developed it. That insight can be a powerful selling point.

Finally, thank about what information a client will need when reading the menu for the first time. What allergens are present in each dish? What are the prominent flavors and textures? What other dishes do they pair well with?

Decide on a Menu Color Scheme

Here comes the fun stuff–deciding on a color scheme and aesthetic for your catering menus.

Now that you’re prepared with a list of menu items including descriptions and prices, think about how you can use color and design to convey your brand’s identity while delivering on the client’s vision. Choose color schemes and design elements that are memorable without being overwhelming.

Colors affect how people interpret your restaurant, as this Chron article on the psychology of restaurant colors shows. Here are a few color resources that designers love:

Design your Catering Menu

It takes a creative approach to design catering menus that are true to the business’s brand while also matching the aesthetic of each event. While designing menus in-house can help you to save money, hiring a designer that can create and print menus streamlines the process.

You might create a portfolio of designs that you can customize with elements from your spreadsheet. That way, you can offer something that will appeal to every client. Be open to customizing your design templates to meet clients’ visions.

Using design software such as Adobe Creative Suite, Canva, or Powerpoint can help you to create your own professional designs. Use our catering menu templates as a starting point, and keep these design best practices in mind:

The menus should be easy to read. Customers can get overwhelmed by large menus. Keep your offerings to one or two pages to offer just enough options to have something for every guest.

The Golden Triangle. When reading a menu, our eyes start in the middle of the page and then move to the top right and left. 

Use dollar signs strategically.  Researchers at Cornell found that diners are likely to order more when dollar signs are not on the menu than when they are present. You might remove dollar signs from your menu, and avoid listing prices in a single column which encourages customers to compare them.

Catering Menu Photos

Having photos of your signature menu items can be a powerful tool for your catering business’s sales team. Consider hiring a professional photographer to take photos for your website and sales materials. Make sure that the photos are representative of your best work.

You can also use those photos for social media and link each post back to your digital menu so that customers can begin to request a quote for an event with just a few taps.

Choose Menu Fonts, Spacing, and Composition

Create consistency across your catering menus with fonts, spacing, and overall composition. Using similar fonts or a recognizable layout can help people to recognize your catering company across events and create opportunities for new business.

The multitude of options for fonts, embellishments, and layouts can make it difficult to consider all the possibilities. Hiring a designer is one way to go. But, you can also use our templates and keep all of the design work in-house.

Stay up to date with the latest menu design trends and develop a good relationship with a print shop. And, remember to be flexible when guests request something that is different from what you would normally suggest.

Select Final Catering Menu Layouts

Don’t be afraid to get a second set of eyes on your designs–from friends, peers, or family. Consult your staff, business partners, and investors to vote on the best menu design for your brand. 

Each stakeholder should review the branding, design, menu descriptions, and prices. The more opinions you get, the better idea you will have of how customers will use the menu. Make final design decisions based on adding to the guests’ experience of each event.

Proofread and Print your Menu

Proofreading is a critical step. Some customers will overlook and forgive spelling and grammar mistakes, but they become distractions to others. Use the built-in spell checker or software like Grammarly to streamline proofreading and catch small mistakes. This can also help you to save by avoiding misprints.

When you’re ready to go to print, consider the paper quality that will give you menus that last for as long as you need them. You can use a local printing shop or an online service like one of the following:

Examples of Great Catering Menus

  • Minimal and Detailed. This minimal design has all the information customers need to know to place an order right on the menu. No pictures of busy designs distract the reader.

  • Elegant and Refined. This elegant catering menu is one of several templates available from which has an AI that produces menu designs for all your needs.

  • Bright and Focused. This design attracts the eye with bright colors and uses high-quality photos sparingly to showcase what the catering team is capable of.

  • Classic. This classic, simple menu design gets right to the point, and lists catering options along with prices that are available from the restaurant.

  • Chic and Fresh. This menu design is elevated and upbeat, combining the restaurant’s unique brand with details about catering orders.

  • Simple and Clean. This online catering menu design is bright and straightforward, showcasing all of the options available.

  • Bold and Branded. This catering menu uses bold colors and large images to capture the client's imagination.

Keep Learning about Menu Engineering

Now that your menus are designed, printed, and published online, develop a strategy to keep them updated. Take note of the best-sellers and keep your menu looking fresh. Our menu engineering spreadsheet will help you analyze the performance of each menu item and guide every change.

Related Menu Ideas

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