Restaurant Menu

Restaurant menu controversies rear their ugly head: Fonts, size and iPads create problems

Restaurant menu issues rear their ugly head: Fonts, iPads are problems

women using glasses to read a menu
Maybe you still have perfect vision, but for a lot of us reading menus with small font, particularly in low light, presents a real problem. We search through purses and pockets for reading glasses, GalleryHip.com

I recently saw a cartoon where a waiter was serving a table and said, “May I present you with the wine list and a hand-picked selection of reading glasses?”

I laughed out loud.

Maybe you still have perfect vision, but for a lot of us reading menus with small font, particularly in low light, presents a real problem. We search through purses and pockets for reading glasses, we clean the lenses on shirttails and squint through them at the listings. 

 I’ve run across several waiters of a certain age who understand the problem and carry a spare pair to loan to diners who are struggling to hold the menu at arms length. 

I always carry a pair and frequently loan them to table mates. I’ve run across several waiters of a certain age who understand the problem and carry a spare pair to loan to diners who are struggling to hold the menu at arms length.

That’s why I found the cartoon so funny. Really, if a restaurant is going to use such tiny type than they really should have a selection of reading glasses to loan customers. There’s nothing like struggling to read a wine or dish description when you should be enjoying yourself.

Restaurant Menu Typos

And what’s up with all the typos on restaurant menus? Or, maybe they aren’t typos. Maybe there just aren’t any writing rules anymore.

There is some rational debate on French/French fries but I stand firm that the “B” in Brussels (no, it’s not Brussel sprouts) sprouts and the “E” in English muffins are capitalized. I’ve also seen cooking terms misspelled on menus and even the restaurants’ addresses. Not to mention some very hard to read font styles.

 If you think this is all just nitpicking, don’t forget that one day you’ll be squinting too. 

Paul’s Kitchen gets the menu right. The restaurant from owner Paul Miller and chef Paul Lewis (maybe it should be Two Paul’s Kitchen?) has a nice paper menu on white card stock with black ink. The font is large enough to read easily and while creative it’s not too stylized to decipher. Bonus points are awarded for the listing of local providers and interesting definitions on the back of the menu.

And may I add that the food there is pretty great also? The braised goat empanadas are delicious and the flash fried Brussels sprouts make that veggie seem more than relevant once again. Chef does them with his house made Chinese XO sauce and smoke peanuts.

iPad Bummer

But getting back on point, menus shouldn’t be off putting to diners. Simple, yet enticing wording in a clear to read size and style. And I may have several electronic devices, but I’m not a big fan of menus on iPads and tablets. Yes, you can increase the font size so you don’t have to whip out those reading glasses but I still like an old school paper menu.

And if you think this is all just nitpicking, don’t forget that one day you’ll be squinting too.

Just ask former rock 'n' roll queen turned motivational speaker Dayna Steele about a lunch she shared with David Crosby.

“He surprised me at a restaurant in Solvang, California one night by asking for my reading glasses when the bill came,” she recalls. “First I was shocked he would ask, then I was shocked he would assume I had any. Which of course I did!

"That was my fave part on American Idol a few years ago, when Steven Tyler quit hiding his and just had them on most of the time.”