A menu isn't just a list of dishes - it's an important piece of marketing material. As the saying goes, the first bite is with the eye, and therefore a menu design says a lot about a restaurant, creating an initial impression before the customer has even seen any of the food or drink on offer. Here are 18 brilliant examples of restaurants that got it right...
01. Vera, Saragoza
Based in Zaragoza (Spain), the team at printing craft workshop El Calotipo are responsible for these beautiful, thick wooden menu designs for cafe Vera. The white lettering is printed manually on an in-house press, the prices are then printed on stickers so they can easily be updated.
02. Cellarmaker Brewing Co, San Francisco
This brilliant menu design by Gamut for the Cellarmaking Brewing Company is so clever it's almost intoxicating. Not only does it provide you with details on what beverages are on offer, it also serves as a helpful reminder of what you've already sampled. And seeing as there are many to choose from, you may just need that helping hand after a few! Genius.
03. Sano Juice, Barcelona
It's hard not to love the vibrant and ultra-minimalistic nature of this menu design for Spanish juice chain Sano, created by Marina Soto. Using gorgeous gradients of colour on one side of the menu, the flip side is just as appealing, featuring mono-weight illustrations and a rounded sans serif type. Just lovely.
04. RAGU Cafe, Novosibirsk
A team of Russian based designers were responsible for the entire identity of the RAGU Cafe but it was the menus that really caught our attention. Using minimal, yet colour-packed photographs, customers can actually see what their food will look like before ordering it. We don't know why more restaurants don't do it!
05. The Pelican, Singapore
This illustrated menu delight comes from Singapore-based design agency Foreign Policy. They explain, "The graphic of mixing human characters interacting with sea-inspired animals is inspired by the dual functions of the Pelican restaurant & bar. As the evening progresses, The Pelican transforms from a dining space to a groovy bar to club and wine deep into the night."
06. Hubbly Bubbly, Orlando
Florida based designer Mark Unger created this fun and adorable menu design for a new falafel restaurant in Orlando. Using bright colours for every page, the child-like aesthetics are perfect for a small and local business.
07. Montero, Mexico
Mexican based agency Anagrama are well-known for thier excellent branding. For the Montero restuarant, they explain "the project was developed inside an edification from the colonial period considered national patrimony. Our job as brand developers was to create a personality where we could glorify traditional kitchen values making the most of regional raw materials."
08. Holly Burger, Spain
Designed by Manuel Astorga and Rodrigo Aguade, they explain "The idea was to create a real american-style brand with a fresh mix of style references. Our first inspiration came from various vintage, hand-drawn American typographies present in old shop windows and a banana leaf wallpaper that had been originally designed in 1942 by decorator Don Loper for the Beverly Hills hotel in Los Angeles."
09. L'Encant, Spain
The menus at L'Encant sushi bar were created by Spanish design agency Nuria Vila. Designed to reinforce the restaurant's blend of Japanese and Catalan culture, the team developed this concept, which pays homage to Japanese folding fans. Inside the wooden cover, menus are printed on stone paper.
10. Fade St. Social, Dublin
Illustrator Steve Simpson is the man behind this vibrant menu design for Fade Street Social in Dublin. The gorgeous drawings conveys the restaurant's quality food and fun, relaxed atmosphere and showcases the unique Irish character and sense of humour brilliantly.
11. Mr Brown, Mexico
Jerome and Zimmerman create and renew brands. And that's exactly what the creative duo did recently for Mexican restaurant Mr Brown. Instead of just acting as a source of information, the pair redesigned the menus to become part of the restaurant's decor, creating wooden boards with menu pages attached and letters on the reverse spelling out its name.
12. Smith, Toronto
Smith is a restaurant and club located in Gay Village in downtown Toronto. Its unique menu design resembles a newspaper, featuring a large, easily readable font and black-and-white photographs of the food on offer. Created by graphic designer Tracy Ma, who currently works at Bloomberg Businessweek, the menu is set to change seasonally.
13. Eleven Madison Park, New York
This minimal and elegant menu design appeared on the tables of New York-based restaurant Eleven Madison Park until late last year. Created by designer, educator and author Juliette Cezzar, the 28-word food menu featured 16 principal food ingredients for customers to choose from.
14. Fat Cow, Singapore
Fat Cow is a beef-speciality restaurant that follows the Japanese method of cooking and serving beef. Inspired by the Japanese notion of 'Wabi Sabi', an aesthetic based on underplayed modesty, creative agency Foreign Policy came up with the concept of delivering its menus on wooden planks. The menu design also captured the style of the restaurant's food perfectly, with the laser etchings on the wood reminiscent of the branding of cattle.
15. Cafe Kafka, Barcelona
Creative studio Lo Seinto created these gorgeous menu designs for Mediterranean food restaurant Cafe Kafka in Barcelona. The menu covers feature beautiful illustrations, each of which tell a story as to what is held over the page. And the insides are just as impressive, featuring illustrations and type that showcase the restaurant's rich and vintage character beautifully.
16. Maddigan's Freehouse, London
Art director and graphic designer Aaron Kitney was the man behind this eye-catching menu design for traditional British pub Maddigan's. Kitney comments on his website: "The main focus for this project was to revamp the identity to draw in additional clientele, while maintaining loyal patrons.
To achieve this, the existing atmosphere and experience was enhanced by using sophisticated type in a traditional setting. The combination of modern and gothic faces alludes to the past without sacrificing legibility."
17. Aroma, Menorca
This minimal menu design was created by Barcelona-based graphic designer Eren Saracevic for Spanish gastro lounge Aroma. Wanting to develop a totally distinguishable menu, Saracevic concentrated entirely on the food, dedicating a whole page to each dish and using the Gotham typeface to describe it. He also decided to feature a simple illustration of a nose on the cover to give more importance to the content.
18. 13 Wives, Singapore
This unique drinks menu is one of our favourite concepts. As well as being the name of speciality cocktail bar in Singapore, 13 Wives is the fictional story of the 13 women who inspire each drink found in this little black book. Another design from creative agency Foreign Policy, the team hand assembled and printed 35 copies in total.
This is an updated version of an article that originally featured on Creative Bloq. Have you seen any great examples of menu designs? Let us know in the comments box below!