Tips for Effective Menu Storytelling

Person holding a menu

It’s easy to describe a dish on your menu using only a list of its ingredients. But this simple approach often ends up feeling uninspiring. It also isn’t necessarily ownable—another restaurant down the street might use the same list of ingredients on a similar item.

But when you tell a brief story to describe your dishes, your menu takes on a new personality. These types of descriptions can excite your customers and entice them to come back to try more. Here are some tips for effective menu storytelling.

Tie Your Descriptions Back to Your Brand

Before diving into rewriting your descriptions, think about what your restaurant represents. Do you boast using sustainable ingredients? Do you want to give diners an elevated experience? Maybe your hook is all about local sourcing or global inspiration. Each of your descriptions should ladder back up to the purpose of your restaurant.

That turns this:
A side of roasted parmesan tomatoes.

Into this:
This side is made with parmesan-crusted tomatoes that are grown in nearby valleys where the average temperature is a lovely 71°F year-round—perfect for ripe, juicy flavor.

Find a Source of Inspiration

To bring meaning to a dish, find a spark that helps set it apart. Talk to your chefs, staff and suppliers to find that little nugget of interest that will guide your storytelling. It could involve the ingredients, recipes, prep methods or even the history.

That turns this:
Shredded short rib tacos in corn tortillas with honey cumin aioli, jalapeño, and cabbage coleslaw.

Into this:
These Sterling Silver® Premium Meats shredded short rib tacos in handmade corn tortillas aren’t just a favorite of Chef Miguel’s—they’re created with a honey cumin aioli that his grandmother taught him how to make. Add jalapeño for a kick and fresh slaw for a crunch, and you’ve got a fiesta on a plate.

Consider a Name Change

Sometimes, a simple adjustment to the name and an extra ingredient can add interest to an item.

“I had a client that had a very good fried chicken sandwich, but it wasn’t selling,” explains Sterling Silver Chef Pete Geoghegan. “So we changed that item into a ‘Nashville Fried Chicken Sandwich’ and added a sauce to it. With just one tweak, they were ahead of the Nashville chicken craze in their area. The name Nashville, that’s a popular name and that gets people to look. If you don’t name it right and it doesn’t resonate with the customer, they’re not going to be interested in it.”

Don’t Exaggerate

Avoid hyperboles and cliches. Listing an item as “The best carbonara in the state!” isn’t only unprovable, it’s also an outdated way to sell something. Vague claims also aren’t as effective. Try to get more detailed than “sourced from farms with humanely raised pigs.” Find the small truths and use them to your advantage.

That turns this:
Spaghetti carbonara with cured pork and topped with parmesan

Into this:
A favorite of actress and frequent diner Lucy Dufour, our parmesan-topped spaghetti carbonara is made with pork from free-range, pasture-raised pigs.

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