25 Genius Changeable Menu Designs to Keep Customers Coming Back for More

Looking for the ultimate guide to designing menus that change at the drop of a hat? You’ve come to the right place.

Whether you’re trying to keep up with trends, need to update prices, or showcase seasonal ingredients, one thing’s for sure—a flexible menu is critical to your bottom line. The right kind of menu design can also brighten up your business, like a pop of color would for your decor.

But a changeable sign system is only a success if it’s easy to implement quickly. Read on to learn about different techniques, and the advantages and pitfalls of each.

Slats: Perfect for rotating menu items

For ultimate flexibility, consider a menu system that uses individual slats or placards so you can change out items as you need. The downside? Turnaround may not be quick if you’re getting the menu items produced by a vendor, and depending on the design, you may be tied to text length or a certain number of line items.

Wood menu with changeable items for Four Barrel, an independent coffee company based in San Francisco.
Individual chalkboard menu items in custom wood display at a brewery. Created by D Fab Design.
Individual chalkboard menu items in custom wood display at a brewery. Created by D Fab Design.
Etched wood menu placards hanging on rail at Village Juicery in Toronto, Canada. Design by Mason Studio.
Etched wood menu placards hanging on rail at Village Juicery in Toronto, Canada. Design by Mason Studio.
Changeable slat wood restaurant wall menu
Coffee Cultures Menu
Coffee Cultures Menu
Colorful, modern, changeable seasonal ice cream menu board for Mitchell's Ice Cream. Design by Madeline Toth.

Letterboards and pegboards: For a retro look

Need daily menu changes? This is a good way to go. Keep in mind that custom fonts are rarely available; you or your sign vendor will likely need to source an existing letter set, which generally uses standard fonts. Be sure to consider a source that makes it easy to purchase replacements, as letters may mysteriously go missing over time. Pro tip: Consider viewing distance and letter size, as these type of signs may be difficult to read.

Letterboard letters in wood rails on tile wall at Glass House, a bar and restaurant in Cambridge, MA. Designed by
Hacin + Associates.
Letterboard letters in wood rails on tile wall at Glass House, a bar and restaurant in Cambridge, MA. Designed by Hacin + Associates.
Pegboard menu with brass pins and barndoor hardware by George and Willy.
Pegboard menu with brass pins and barndoor hardware by George and Willy.
Black menu letters on magnetic rail painted to match wall at Café cantine Soeurs. Designed by ParisBrooklyn
Black menu letters on magnetic rail painted to match wall at Café cantine Soeurs. Designed by ParisBrooklyn
Black pegboard menu with white letters by George and Willy
Custom purple changeable letterboard sign for Re:Store, a retail store and community space on Maiden Lane in San Francisco, CA.
Custom purple changeable letterboard sign for Re:Store, a retail store and community space on Maiden Lane in San Francisco, CA.

Hanging Panels: Great for seasonal menus

Menus that hang on pegs or rails are ideal for menus that change monthly, quarterly, or seasonally. Though not as flexible as the earlier examples, they provide more room for creative details, like adding menu item photos, or decorative graphics to celebrate an event or holiday. However, implementing menu changes may require some turnaround time; we recommend asking your print shop or sign vendor how long it will take to create replacement panels.

Changeable menu on brass rails for Coffee DA in Seoul, Korea. Designed by melloncolie fantastic space lita.
Changeable menu on brass rails for Coffee DA in Seoul, Korea. Designed by melloncolie fantastic space lita.
Modern menu design concept on rails for supermarket chain Waitrose in Great Britan. Designed by Household.
Minimal black and white menu boards hanging on pegs on painted brick wall at restaurant Abarrotes Delirio in Mexico. Design by Saavy Studio.
Printed menu hanging from poster frame in Foreign Policy in Singapore. Typeface by Grilli Type.
Printed menu hanging from poster frame in Foreign Policy in Singapore. Typeface by Grilli Type.
Menu display on wood wall with magnetic letters at Jamie Oliver's Barbecoa Butchery.
Menu display on wood wall with magnetic letters at Jamie Oliver's Barbecoa Butchery.
Printed cardboard menu hanging from barn door hardware at The Corner, a one-off McCafé by McDonald’s Australia.

Handwritten menus: For a friendly neighborhood look

Know a chalk artist or someone with great penmanship? Handwritten menus are a great way to create an inviting feel for your space. If the handwritten text proves to be difficult to read, consider using stamps or stencils.

Multiple butcher paper menus behind food counter at Seaside Poke in Houston, TX.
Person stamping letters on butcher paper menu using menu kit by George and WIlly
Person stamping letters on butcher paper menu using menu kit by George and WIlly
Chalkboard cafe menu with custom lettering at Iron Roost, created by Cinder Design Co.
Chalkboard cafe menu with custom lettering at Iron Roost, created by Cinder Design Co.
Lettering stencil kit for chalkboard menus, created by George and Willy.
Lettering stencil kit for chalkboard menus, created by George and Willy.

Lightboxes: The original counter menu

Lightbox menus have been gracing diner and fast food counters for decades. These days, they’re making a comeback by ditching the food photography and opting for simple lettering instead. These signs are great for dim settings and retro-inspired interiors, though they may require a professional installer for menu updates.

Retro diner style lightbox menu at Winter Milk ice cream shop. Designed by Anagrama.
Retro lightbox menu overhanging bar at Eleven Fifty Four, a pasta restaurant in Wellington, New Zealand. Design by Sunday Best.
Small plug-in lightbox menu sign with wood frame for cafe. Sold by George and Willy.
Small plug-in lightbox menu sign with wood frame for cafe. Sold by George and Willy.
Wood lightbox menu for cafe, designed by Jake Howe.
Wood lightbox menu for cafe, designed by Jake Howe.

Bottom line: The perfect menu design is one that’s created just for you.

While there are a multitude of options available, a menu that’s custom tailored to your needs will be worth every penny of your investment. Make sure the menu is flexible to work with your changing business needs, easily updatable by your staff, and most of all—will delight customers and keep them coming back for more.

Changeable coffee menu for Coffee Cultures in San Francisco, designed by Chen Design Associates.

Questions to ask when designing a changeable menu:

  1. Content: How often will your menu be changing? What parts of your menu will be changing? Will prices need to be updated? Do you need photos or graphics on your menu?
  2. Execution: How easily do you need the changeable parts to be? Do you have staff on site to manage menu changes? If you’re working with a vendor or artist to produce parts of the menu, how quick do you need the turnaround to be?
  3. Design: What is the typical viewing distance, and how large does the text need to be? What colors and materials best work for your space? What visual cues can you give customers to get them excited about future visits?
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