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The Dos and Don’ts of a Food Truck Menu

Making a great menu for your food truck can attract customers and a bad menu can repel them. Use this list of Dos and Don’ts to make sure your food truck looks attractive.

Do: Use Creative Names

Creative names make people interested in what you have. If you write “hamburger,” then people are going to imagine what they get at home. If you write something like “slamburger!,” then people are more likely to see it as a new option. Of course, your creative names should say something about the food. If your burger isn’t “slamming!,” then find a more appropriate name.

Don’t: Use Illegible Writing

The best menu in the world will fail if customers can’t read it. Illegible writing is a death sentence. If you can’t write legibly on a chalk board, then consider having a menu professionally printed. If you want to go the cheaper route, just make sure you hire help with good penmanship.

Do: List Your Specials

New customers often have a hard time navigating menus, even when you make it as easy as possible to read. There’s something about the pressure of standing at the front of line that makes it impossible for newcomers to decide what they want. That’s why you list your specials in bold colors. New patrons will immediate want to try them. Plus, you get to alert your regular customers that you’ve added something new to the menu.

Don’t: Use Dollar Signs

When customers approach your food truck, they should only have one thing on their minds: the food. You don’t want them comparing prices and trying to do mathematic gymnastics in their heads to figure out how they can get the best deal for lunch.

By removing the dollar signs, you put more focus on the food. It might sound silly, but people respond negatively to things like $$$. So, just write the number.

Do: List Premium Dishes in the Upper Right-hand Corner

Researchers find that people usually look at the upper right-hand corner of a newspaper before they scan the rest of the page. That’s true for food truck menus, too. Treat that corner like prime real estate. When deciding what to place there, consider:

  • which of your dishes earns you the most money
  • which of your dishes will turn newcomers into regulars
  • which of your impressive dishes are easiest to make during a rush

Depending on your priorities, you’ll know what item to place in the corner.

Don’t: Neglect the Bacon

People love bacon. It doesn’t matter what you serve them. If it has bacon, they’ll love it. So why aren’t you mentioning bacon on your menu?

Look at it this way, people who don’t care about your pork roast sandwich will potentially lose their minds over your bacon-wrapped pork roast sandwich. When in doubt, add bacon to it.

Do: Describe Your Dishes

What, exactly, is a “slamburger!” One person could imagine it as a hamburger covered in jalapeno peppers, cheddar cheese, and garlic ketchup. Another could imagine it as a bison burger served with aioli on a brioche bun, probably with a big toothpick running down the middle to hold it all together. In other words, your creative names could lead to confusion.

It is an easy enough problem to solve, though. Just provide a brief description of your dish. Focus on the highlight and make it sound as delicious as possible.

Don’t: Use too Many Adjectives

You need to describe your dishes, but you don’t need to use a lot of adjectives. Honestly, adjectives are boring. You can almost always find a noun that will work double time by describing your dish while taking up less space. It’s tough, but you need to strike a balance between informative and minimalistic.

Here’s an adjective-heavy description of the slamburger!: “A grass-fed bison burger with spicy cheese, pickled jalapenos, and a salty brioche bun.” Here’s a description without all of that unnecessary adjectives: “Grass-fed bison, pepper jack cheese, jalapenos, brioche.” See how that gives the customer information without making them read a whole sentence? That’s what you want. If it’s easy for them, it’s easier for you.

Do: Use A Cohesive Design


Image via Flickr by Phil Denton

Some food truck owners like to make a new sign for each day. If that’s what they enjoy, then that’s great. Hopefully they have an artistic side that helps them create cohesive designs on the fly. Most food truck owners don’t want to make a new sign that often. It just takes too much time away from cooking, planning, and serving customers. That’s why it makes sense to hire a graphic designer who can put together a great menu that will attract more customers. Remember, just because you’re amazing in the kitchen doesn’t mean that your excellent at every art form.

Do: Organize Your Menu by Color

Many of your customers will find it helpful for you to organize your menu by color. If you make the entrees green, then choose yellow, blue, or another color for side items. You should also choose different colors for desserts, specials, and other menu items that don’t fall easily into pre-determined groups.

Don’t: Make Things Too Complicated

A good food truck has a lot of options. That way, you can serve a wider audience with the foods they love. However, having a lot of dishes doesn’t mean that you have to make things complicated. Don’t give your customers too many options. Try to make things as simple as possible.

If you’re into special sauces, only offer a couple per day. If you give customers ten sauce options, they’ll have a hard time making up their minds and you’ll run yourself ragged trying to keep up with their orders. If you really want to offer more options, limit them to specific menu items. The slamburger! gets two sauce options. The frankenfurther comes with two options. By narrowing customer options, you make things easier on everyone.

What dos and don’ts have you noticed while working on your menus? Do you ever get feedback from customers that inspires you to change the way you present your items?


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