table at foreign resturant featuring a translated menu
By: Patrick On: September 01, 2016 In: Translation Comments: 0

Restaurants serve a linguistically diverse customer base, so having menus in only one language is often a hindrance. After all, even communities without a significant amount of tourism often include multiple spoken languages.

To avoid losing business because of language barriers, savvy restaurant owners take advantage of professional menu translation. No matter what style of food is served, using multilingual menus allows restaurants to cater to a wide variety of diners in a language they’re comfortable with, which can entice new customers as well as encourage repeat business.

There are plenty of options when designing a restaurant menu in multiple languages. But what will the new menus look like once the translation is finished?

Formatting is an important consideration, affecting everything from the number of menus needed to customer convenience. Not every format will work for every restaurant, but a professional translation agency can advise you on the most appropriate way to translate your menu.

Below are a few of the layouts that restaurateurs thinking about a menu translation should consider:

“Subtitle” Menus

This is one of the more common menu translation formats, where every meal item is listed in multiple languages, one after another. One advantage of this format is that the restaurant only needs to design, print and stock one kind of menu. It’s also pretty simple for the customers to use, as they can flip through the pages as one normally would while being able to see each translation instantly.

On the other hand, this format can get cluttered very easily with multiple lines of text that make it hard to read. It works well for items that need no explanation, but if your menu features detailed descriptions for each dish, you might be served better by a different layout.

Language-Specific Menus

Another possible translation format uses a separate menu for each language. The text on such menus tends to be less cramped than the “subtitle” format, giving you more room for graphic elements or white space. This is ideal for restaurants with a lengthy menu, as well as restaurants with a linguistically diverse customer base.

Keep in mind that with this approach, you’ll need to have more menus on hand, depending on how many languages are spoken by your customers. It also means a bit more work for servers, since they have to make sure the customer is getting the right menu.

Picture Menus

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, though food is kind of an exception. Flattering food photography may certainly help restaurants bridge the language gap, but diners still need to know exactly what it is they’re ordering.

The good news is that the picture does most of the heavy lifting as far as selling the food is concerned, so all the restaurant menu translation needs to convey is the meal’s name or a short description of the ingredients. It does mean, however, that nearly every item on the menu has to have a photo representation, which can make for expensive printing (especially if your menu is subject to change).

Dual-Sided Menus

Just as the name implies, this bilingual menu format displays two different languages on opposite sides — if you can’t read one side, just flip it over!

The advantage of this format is that it’s very simple for diners to use. It’s especially suited to markets that have two highly prominent languages — when you know the vast majority of your customers speak either English or French, for example, a dual-sided menu is often an elegant solution.

Dual-sided menus also work well when offering only a limited number of options for meals, such as at a wedding, during an in-flight meal or at a breakfast-only establishment. When space is at a premium, this format allows you to save space without trimming items from the menu.

The Importance of Professional Restaurant Menu Translation

When translating your menu into one or more languages, its important to always leave it to the professionals — those who have experience not only in the language but in the food industry as well. After all, you want to make sure you avoid translation errors that lead to unappetizing descriptions.

No matter which option is employed, a menu translation provides customers with the ability to enjoy a restaurant, even if they speak another language. This helps attract diners who want either a touristy or a culinary experience — or both!

Help your customers from all over the world feel at home in your restaurant by providing them with professional translated menus.

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