How to Write Menu Descriptions That Sell | 7 Proven Tips

How to Write Menu Descriptions

When it comes to selling food, the menu is one of the most vital tools in a restaurateur’s arsenal. It’s the bridge between the kitchen and the customer, and its power should not be underestimated. Your menu is the primary medium through which customers make their dining decisions. Hence, crafting compelling menu descriptions becomes paramount.

For those searching for insights on how to write menu descriptions, look no further. This guide is tailored for you.

How to Write Menu Descriptions?

In the culinary world, the power of words is just as potent as the allure of flavors. When pondering over how to write menu descriptions, one cannot overlook the significance of descriptive language. It’s the bridge that connects the diner’s imagination to the chef’s creation, even before the dish arrives at the table.

Tip 1: Use descriptive language

The essence of a compelling menu description lies in its ability to evoke sensory experiences. Since your customers haven’t tasted the dish yet, the onus is on the description to make them yearn for it. Descriptive language serves as the paintbrush that vividly colors this picture.

Why is Descriptive Language Crucial?

  • Engages the Senses: Words have the power to trigger sensory memories. A well-chosen adjective can make someone recall the exact taste or texture of a food item, making them more inclined to order it.
  • Sets Expectations: It gives diners a preview of what they can expect, ensuring they make informed choices that they’re likely to enjoy.
  • Enhances the Dining Experience: A beautifully written menu can elevate the entire dining experience, making it memorable.

Examples of Descriptive Words and Their Impact:

  • Crispy: Evokes images of food that’s perfectly browned and gives a satisfying crunch with every bite.
  • Creamy: Conjures up feelings of smooth, rich textures that melt in the mouth.
  • Savory: Hints at a dish that’s full of flavor, often umami, making one’s mouth water in anticipation.
  • Tangy: Suggests a zesty, lively flavor that adds a kick to the dish.
  • Flaky: Perfect for pastries or fish, indicating layers that delicately fall apart.
  • Juicy: Instantly makes one think of succulent, mouth-watering bites.
  • Tender: Evokes the ease with which one can cut through the dish, indicating perfect cooking.
  • Spicy: Warns of heat, but also promises an exciting burst of flavors.

Crafting the Perfect Description:

Consider a simple chicken dish. Instead of writing “Chicken with sauce,” imagine the appeal of “Tender chicken breast, seared to perfection, drenched in a tangy lemon-basil sauce.” The latter not only sounds more appetizing but also gives a clearer picture of what to expect.

Mastering how to write menu descriptions is akin to mastering a recipe. The right ingredients, in the form of descriptive words, can transform a simple dish into a best-seller. As you embark on this journey, remember to let your passion for food shine through your words, making every description a tantalizing invitation to a gastronomic adventure.

Tip 2: Be specific when deciding How to Write Menu Descriptions

In the culinary canvas, where every dish is a masterpiece, the way you describe it can be the difference between a customer ordering it or skipping it. When diving into the nuances of how to write menu descriptions, specificity is your best friend. It’s the fine brushstroke that adds depth and detail to your culinary painting.

Tip 2: Embrace Specificity in Menu Descriptions

While adjectives like “delicious” or “tasty” are tempting to use, they’re subjective and don’t provide tangible information. Specificity, on the other hand, paints a vivid picture, setting clear expectations and enticing customers to try the dish.

how to write menu descriptions

Why Being Specific Matters?

  • Sets Clear Expectations: Customers appreciate knowing exactly what they’re getting, reducing the chance of disappointment.
  • Highlights Quality: Detailing premium ingredients or unique preparation methods can justify a higher price point and emphasize the dish’s value.
  • Differentiates Your Offerings: In a sea of generic descriptions, specificity can make your dish stand out and be memorable.

Examples of Generic vs. Specific Descriptions:

  • Generic: Tasty pasta. Specific: Hand-rolled fettuccine tossed in a garlic-infused olive oil with sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil.
  • Generic: Delicious cake. Specific: Moist dark chocolate cake layered with rich ganache and topped with raspberry coulis.
  • Generic: Refreshing drink. Specific: Iced green tea infused with fresh mint leaves and a hint of honey.

Crafting a Specific Description:

Consider a seafood dish. A generic description might read, “Seafood platter.” However, a specific description would be, “A medley of freshly-caught shrimp, mussels, and calamari, grilled to perfection and drizzled with a zesty lemon-herb sauce, served with a side of garlic aioli.

In essence, when pondering how to write menu descriptions, think of it as telling a story. Each dish has its narrative, from the ingredients’ origins to the chef’s inspiration. By being specific, you’re inviting the customer to be a part of that story, making their dining experience richer and more memorable.

Specificity is not just a tip; it’s a cornerstone in the art of how to write menu descriptions. By focusing on the details, you can transform a mundane menu into a tantalizing tableau of culinary delights, ensuring customers are drawn to your dishes time and time again.

Tip 3: The Magic of Sensory Words in Menu Descriptions

While general descriptive words provide a broad overview, sensory words delve deeper, targeting specific senses and evoking vivid imagery. They’re the spices in the recipe of how to write menu descriptions, adding depth and flavor.

Why Sensory Words Elevate Menu Descriptions?

  • Engage Multiple Senses: Beyond just taste, they tap into smell, touch, and even sound, offering a multi-dimensional preview of the dish.
  • Create Anticipation: Sensory descriptions build anticipation, making the diner eager to experience the dish firsthand.
  • Enhance Memorability: Dishes described with sensory words tend to be more memorable, leading to repeat orders and recommendations.

Examples of Sensory Words and Their Impact:

  • Aromatic: Conjures images of a dish that fills the room with its inviting scent, promising a flavorful experience.
  • Buttery: Evokes the rich, smooth texture and taste of butter, suggesting a luxurious mouthfeel.
  • Crispy: Hints at a satisfying crunch, perfect for fried items or fresh vegetables.
  • Fluffy: Perfect for baked goods or certain desserts, indicating a light, airy texture.
  • Garlicky: A strong flavor profile hinting at the bold presence of garlic.
  • Melty: Suggests a delightful texture, especially for dishes with cheese or chocolate.
  • Smoky: Evokes the flavors of grilling or smoking, adding a rustic touch.
  • Zesty: Indicates a lively, tangy element, often associated with citrus or certain spices.

Crafting Descriptions with Sensory Words:

Consider a pizza description. A basic description might read, “Cheese pizza.” However, using sensory words, it could be transformed to, “Aromatic pizza with a crispy crust, topped with melty mozzarella and a garlicky tomato sauce.”

In essence, when exploring how to write menu descriptions, sensory words are your toolkit to craft vivid, enticing descriptions. They allow you to paint a picture so vivid that diners can almost taste, smell, and feel the dish before it even arrives.

The journey of how to write menu descriptions is about creating a sensory symphony, where each word plays a note, enticing, and inviting. By weaving in sensory words, you ensure that your menu is not just a list of dishes but a sensory experience in itself.

Tip 4: Menu Psychology in Menu Descriptions

Menu psychology is the subtle art of influencing customer choices through strategic design and language. It’s about understanding human behavior and leveraging that knowledge to guide diners towards specific dishes, ultimately boosting sales and enhancing the dining experience.

Why is Menu Psychology Essential?

  • Drive Sales: By highlighting high-profit items or dishes you’re known for, you can increase their sales frequency.
  • Enhance Customer Satisfaction: Guiding customers towards dishes they’re likely to enjoy can lead to higher satisfaction levels.
  • Optimize Operational Efficiency: Promoting dishes that are quicker to prepare or use seasonal ingredients can streamline kitchen operations.

Menu Psychology Techniques and Their Impact:

  1. Highlighting with Design Elements:
    • Technique: Use boxes, borders, or different fonts to draw attention to specific dishes.
    • Impact: Makes the highlighted dishes stand out, increasing the likelihood of them being ordered.
  2. Strategic Item Placement:
    • Technique: Place high-profit or signature dishes in the center of the menu or at the top right, as these are areas that customers often look at first.
    • Impact: Increases visibility and sales of strategically placed items.
  3. Subtle Pricing Tactics:
    • Technique: Avoid using dollar signs or round numbers. For instance, use “12” instead of “$12.00.”
    • Impact: Reduces the emphasis on cost, making customers less price-sensitive.
  4. The Decoy Effect:
    • Technique: Offer a high-priced dish (decoy) next to a slightly cheaper option.
    • Impact: Makes the cheaper dish seem like better value, increasing its sales.
  5. Limiting Choices:
    • Technique: Offer fewer options in each category.
    • Impact: Reduces decision fatigue, making customers more decisive and satisfied with their choices.

Crafting a Menu with Psychology in Mind:

Imagine you run an Italian restaurant. Instead of merely listing “Pasta,” you could highlight a “Chef’s Special Pasta” with a unique border, place it centrally, price it at “18” without a dollar sign, and position it next to a premium “Truffle Pasta” priced slightly higher. This approach not only makes the dish more appealing but also strategically nudges customers towards it.

When contemplating how to write menu descriptions, remember that every element, from the dish’s name to its placement and price, plays a role. Menu psychology offers a roadmap to navigate these choices, ensuring that your menu isn’t just a feast for the eyes and palate but also a strategic tool for business success.

Tip 5: Celebrate Your Restaurant’s Uniqueness in Menu Descriptions

Every restaurant has its own story, its own signature dishes, and its own secret recipes. These are the elements that give it character and charm. Emphasizing these in your menu can create a sense of intrigue and allure.

Why Highlighting Unique Features is Crucial?

  • Creates a Brand Identity: Your unique features help define your restaurant’s brand and what it stands for.
  • Builds Curiosity: Customers are naturally drawn to what sets you apart from the competition.
  • Encourages Trials: When customers believe they’re getting something exclusive or special, they’re more likely to try it.

Examples of Emphasizing Unique Features:

  1. Signature Ingredients:
    • Description: “Our pasta is tossed in a sauce made from tomatoes grown exclusively in our backyard garden, ensuring unmatched freshness.”
  2. Award Mentions:
    • Description: “Indulge in our cheesecake, crowned as the ‘Best Dessert’ at the City Food Awards 2022.”
  3. Exclusive Preparations:
    • Description: “Savor our slow-cooked beef stew, a recipe passed down through three generations and perfected over time.
  4. Special Collaborations:
    • Description: “Enjoy our gourmet pizza, topped with cheese sourced from the renowned ‘Dairy Delights’ farm.”

Crafting Descriptions with Unique Features in Mind:

Consider a seafood dish in a coastal restaurant. Instead of merely stating, “Fresh seafood platter,” you could enhance it with, “Seafood platter featuring today’s catch, handpicked by local fishermen and served with our signature lemon-herb drizzle.”

In essence, when pondering how to write menu descriptions, think of your unique features as the stars of the show. They deserve the spotlight, and by giving them center stage, you not only enhance your menu’s appeal but also build a stronger connection with your customers.

The journey of how to write menu descriptions is about more than just listing dishes. It’s about celebrating what makes you unique, creating a narrative that resonates with diners, and offering them an experience that’s exclusive to your establishment.

Tip 6: Striking the Balance – Short and Sweet Menu Descriptions

The challenge lies in being descriptive enough to entice, yet concise enough to ensure easy readability. After all, a menu is not a novel; it’s a guide to a delightful dining experience.

Why Brevity Matters in Menu Descriptions?

  • Quick Decision Making: Customers often skim through menus, especially if they’re hungry. Short descriptions facilitate quicker decision-making.
  • Enhanced Readability: Concise descriptions, especially when formatted well, are easier on the eyes and more scannable.
  • Focused Messaging: Fewer words mean each word carries more weight, ensuring that the core appeal of the dish shines through.

Guidelines for Crafting Short and Sweet Descriptions:

  1. Word Limit: Aim for 10-15 words, capturing the essence of the dish without overwhelming the reader.
  2. Use Active Voice: It’s more direct and often requires fewer words. For instance, “Grilled to perfection” instead of “Has been grilled to perfection.
  3. Prioritize Information: Highlight the most appealing or unique aspects of the dish. If it’s a spicy chicken dish with a side salad, emphasize the chicken and its flavors over the salad.
  4. Format Wisely: Use bullet points or numbered lists for dishes with multiple components, making them easier to scan.

Examples of Brevity in Action:

  • Verbose: “Our chicken is marinated for hours in a mix of exotic spices, then grilled slowly to ensure it’s juicy and flavorful. It’s served with a side of fresh salad.”
  • Concise: “Spice-marinated chicken, grilled to juicy perfection. Served with a crisp salad.”

In essence, when considering how to write menu descriptions, think of it as poetry. Every word must be chosen with care, delivering maximum impact in minimal space. It’s about enticing the palate, sparking curiosity, and ensuring the diner’s journey from reading the menu to placing an order is smooth and delightful.

Mastering the art of brevity in how to write menu descriptions ensures that your menu remains a quick, enjoyable read, guiding diners effortlessly to their desired culinary delights.

Tip 7: Crafting Compelling Calls-to-Action in Menu Descriptions

A well-placed CTA can transform a passive reading experience into an active decision-making process. It’s not just about informing; it’s about persuading, enticing, and inviting.

Why Calls-to-Action are Essential in Menu Descriptions?

  • Drives Action: CTAs are designed to prompt immediate responses, making diners more likely to try a highlighted dish.
  • Creates a Sense of Urgency: Phrases like “today” or “daily special” suggest a limited-time offer, making customers more inclined to order.
  • Enhances Engagement: A good CTA can make the menu interactive, engaging diners and making them feel involved in the dining experience.

Examples of Effective Calls-to-Action:

  1. Highlight Specials:
    • CTA: “Experience our chef’s creation with the daily special.”
  2. Promote New Additions:
    • CTA: “Discover new flavors with our latest addition.”
  3. Encourage Indulgence:
    • CTA: “Treat yourself to our signature dessert.”
  4. Suggest Pairings:

Crafting Menu Descriptions with CTAs in Mind:

Consider a seafood dish. A basic description might read, “Grilled salmon with lemon herb sauce.” Adding a CTA transforms it into, “Dive into the fresh flavors of the sea with our grilled salmon. Try it tonight with our lemon herb sauce!

In essence, when exploring how to write menu descriptions, CTAs are the finishing touch. They’re the cherry on top, adding that final layer of persuasion, ensuring your menu isn’t just informative but also influential.

The art of how to write menu descriptions is a blend of description, persuasion, and strategy. By incorporating compelling calls-to-action, you ensure that your menu doesn’t just describe dishes but actively sells them, leading to a more successful and satisfying dining experience for both the restaurant and its patrons.

FAQs on How to Write Menu Descriptions

Why is it important to use descriptive language in menu descriptions?

Descriptive language paints a vivid picture of the dish, evoking sensory experiences and making customers yearn for the dish even before tasting it. It helps create a mental image of what the food will taste like, which can be persuasive and enticing.

How can I make my menu descriptions more specific?

Instead of using generic adjectives like “delicious,” focus on specific details that make your dish stand out. Mention unique ingredients, preparation methods, or any special features. For instance, instead of “tasty burger,” you could say “1/2 pound burger with melted cheddar on a brioche bun.

What are sensory words, and why should I use them in my menu?

Sensory words describe how food smells, tastes, and feels. They engage multiple senses, creating a more immersive experience for the reader. Using words like “aromatic,” “crispy,” or “melty” can make your menu descriptions more vivid and enticing.

How can menu psychology help increase sales?

Menu psychology involves using design and language strategically to influence customer behavior. Techniques like highlighting certain dishes, placing high-profit items centrally, or using decoys can encourage customers to order specific dishes or spend more, ultimately boosting sales.

How can I use calls-to-action effectively in my menu?

Calls-to-action (CTAs) are phrases that prompt immediate responses. Incorporate CTAs that create a sense of urgency, suggest pairings, or highlight specials. Phrases like “Try it tonight!” or “Pairs perfectly with our house wine” can drive action and enhance engagement.

Are there any general guidelines on the ideal length of a menu description?

Aim for menu descriptions to be between 10 and 15 words. While it’s essential to be descriptive, it’s equally important to keep descriptions concise to ensure easy readability and quick decision-making for customers.

Why is brevity important in menu descriptions?

While detailed descriptions can be informative, customers often skim through menus, especially when hungry. Short, concise descriptions facilitate quicker decision-making and ensure the menu remains an easy, enjoyable read.

Is it okay to use humor in menu descriptions?

Yes, humor can be a great way to make your menu descriptions stand out. Just make sure that the humor is appropriate and fits with your restaurant’s overall brand.

Should I include prices in my menu descriptions?

It’s generally best to avoid using prices in your menu descriptions. Instead, use descriptive language and call-to-action phrases to make your dishes sound irresistible.

How often should I update my menu descriptions?

It’s a good idea to update your menu descriptions at least once a year, or more often if you have seasonal or daily specials.


Writing menu descriptions that sell is both an art and a science. By using descriptive language, incorporating sensory words, and emphasizing your unique features, you can create menus that customers can’t resist. Remember to keep your descriptions short and sweet, and use call-to-action phrases to encourage customers to order more. With these 7 proven tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating menus that are both appetizing and persuasive.

If your looking for more great content be sure to check out: National Restaurant Association ( The National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry in the United States. Their website provides a wealth of information on topics such as industry trends, best practices for restaurant management, and resources for restaurant owners and operators.

This article was reviewed and published by Ryan Yates, Culinary Expert with over 15 years of experience as a Sommelier, Executive Chef and Restaurant Manager. This article was written by Ryan from his knowledge and experience from almost 2 decades in the fine dinning restaurant and bar business.

Note: This article was crafted with the primary intent of educating and assisting our readers. We ensure that our content is backed by research and expertise. For more culinary insights, stay tuned to the Authentic Hospitality blog.

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