When it comes to the private events industry, a great way to stand out above your competition is with a well-designed menu. Industry pros know the secrets behind a successful private event menu start with design and knowing simple menu tricks that will appeal to your prospective customers. What are the top design tips you can follow that will make your private event menu stand out? For some insider knowledge, we turned to Mark Laux, managing partner of HotOperator, a leading restaurant marketing agency that specializes in menu design. He discussed their process and how they engineer the perfect menus that lead to signed private event and catering contracts. Read on to see what we found out.
☑ Differentiate your event menu from your traditional menu
The design of your private event menu and traditional restaurant menu should be completely different. While your traditional menu should be used to entice a dine-in customer, your catering menu should speak to your potential customer about an event they are throwing. “Your catering menu has to offer a mental picture of a successful event with happy guests,” says Mark. “It has to convince the customer that they’ll be the talk of the town and that their guests will be impressed and satisfied with their choice.”
☑ Think strategically when pricing
You’ve come up with the menu items and ingredients you want to feature — now comes pricing. When it comes to a successful event menu, you want to think strategically. “Every product has a potential ‘sweet spot’ when it comes to pricing,” says Mark. “A good catering menu should hit the sweet spot on every item,” he adds.
☑ Make sure the look is on-brand
Your brand is one of the first things you develop when starting your business. It’s what makes you stand out. So, it’s important not to lose things like look and style when you start to design your event menu. “Make sure your design and writing enhances your brand, not changes it,” says Mark. You can help ensure this happens by having a one-on-one meeting with your menu designer and showing them the existing menus and any other collateral you have onsite. You can also give them some descriptive words (like “elegant,” “modern” or “rustic”) that may help illustrate your brand’s aesthetic.
☑ Highlight important menu items
Most every restaurant or catering venue has signature menu items they want to highlight. Simple design tips, like line breaks and boxes, can help direct customer’s eyes in specific directions on your menu. “How you call attention to certain items over others has an effect on how well the event will go, how happy the guest will be and how much money the restaurant will make over time,” explains Mark.
☑ Know your customer demographics
Knowing who you’re selling to will help you create your event menu. Mark suggests that gathering simple demographics, like what businesses surround your restaurant, population estimates in your city, average income levels of your customers and other statistics, typically within 25 miles of your space, will help you get a feel for your customer personas and what you need to do to appeal to them.
☑ Keep marketing in mind
When it comes to successful menus, design and marketing go hand-in-hand. “Good design is good business, and a well-designed menu will support your marketing efforts,” explains Mark. Through the design of your menu, you should be able to let your customers know why they should pick your event or catering business, and what makes you stand out from your competition.
☑ Don’t be afraid to include photos or illustrations
While you won’t usually see photos on menus at upscale restaurants, more affordable places use this tactic as a visual way to entice customers. Including a photo or two of your most popular catering items may help influence customers to choose that specific package for their event.