In a recent post, Menu Designs from Around the World, Design Taxi featured visual inspiration from Art of the Menu, a new project that intends to track creativity found in menu designs across the world. UnderConsideration, the graphic design firm that started the project, said this about the often taken–for–granted medium:

A good menu should make you hungry. It should get your mouth watering. Hopefully it does it in a cool–looking way.”

A menu, not unlike any other piece of marketing collateral your business produces, is an extension of your brand and should reflect your brand’s aesthetic. It—along with the ambiance of a restaurant, the personality of the wait staff, taste and presentation of the food, etc—helps to form your customers’ perception of brand.

Design isn’t the only factor to consider though. Here are a few simple suggestions that can turn your menus into a dynamic, sale–promoting marketing piece:

Choose your paper type or substrate wisely. Believe it or not, the feel of the menu between your customers’ fingers can make a big impact on their experience. Select a quality paper stock and weight that is consistent with the style of your brand. I suggest something like a 130# gloss cover stock—a durable, heavy–weight card stock. If appropriate, you can also try printing on alternative substrates like thin plexiglass or micro–thin plywood.

Add a protective coating to keep menus looking fresh longer. Paper, especially when handled often, can soak up oils naturally present on fingertips. Including a UV coating on your printed menu can not only add polish to your design, it can also help repel dirt, water, and natural oils.

Use descriptive copy to help sell your dishes. Dining is an experience of all the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. This is how customers connect with your brand. Give them something to anticipate and look forward to by describing the experience through compelling copy and creative design.

Turn menus into an interactive medium by including QR codes. QR codes enable you to enhance your menu by linking to video testimonials, commentary by the chef, or daily specials.  Tip: when generating a QR code to incorporate into your menu’s design, use a URL shortening service (like BudURL) that will allow you to edit the destination URL without altering the QR code. Then, you can feature something new every day, week, or quarter. Also, be sure your QR code links to a mobile–friendly digital format.