Your take-out menu is probably your most important piece of low-cost advertising, but a lot of restaurants and pizzerias fail to take advantage of the endless possibilities. 

Your takeout menu is an extension of your business, your food and your passion. Today it costs pennies to print and if marketed correctly, can yield thousands in extra business. Your takeout menu should be printed and neatly folded. Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Give your customers what they want: convenience and choices. Here are 10 ways to market your take-out menu.

Put coupons and offers on your menu

es, find room on the front or back panel for coupons and offers. If your menu is too cramped then print it on larger paper. Don`t use the same old offers. ($1.00 off any large pie, 1 free topping w/ large pie etc.) Be creative and blow your competition out of the water. Give a free pasta dish and a two-liter of soda with two entree orders or order one large pie get three free toppings (of course you list six or seven low cost toppings that the customer can choose from.) People don't want money taken off, they want choices. Give them choices. "Free garlic bread w/cheese and a two-liter soda" or "Free pasta w/three choices of sauce." Let the customer choose what they want for FREE. This is your menu so advertise on it – no one is going to charge you for ad space.

Blow up your menu

No, not with TNT, but with Large Format Printing. Look in your yellow pages for large format printers. Bring your menu to them and blow it up 4 feet x 6 feet and place it in your front window. This helps people who are walking by see what you have to offer on your menu. Also, on busy nights people can look at your menu from outside so traffic flows smoothly.

A $.99 basket can make you $1,000`s  

In New York City, many of our customers buy a small basket from the local dollar-store in which they place their menus. They then attach the basket on the outside of their front door. You will be surprised to know that people are embarrassed to come in and ask for a take-out menu if they don't plan to order at that moment. People might want to take your menu home and look it over for future business. You are making it convenient for the customer.

A menu In every bag that leaves your restaurant

Yes, in every bag, doggie bag, to-go bag, paper, plastic and yes even a bag with one slice of pizza in it. Why? You ask because you never know where that bag is going. That customer could be taking your food to a friend's house who has never heard of your place. When they all try your great food they will have a take-out menu to order from you in the future. This is like putting out pennies and getting back dollars.

On your counter and others  

walk into over 3,000+ pizzerias and restaurants a year. I can't tell you how many times owners scramble when I ask to see their take-out menu. You should have your menus neatly placed in a brochure rack and placed on both ends of your counter. To gain extra business, partner up with non-competitors (dry cleaner, gas station, doctor's office, bowling alley etc.). Buy 12 brochure racks that fit six or more brochures. Every business that participates gets their brochures printed up and gets two racks to place in their business. Talk to your printer about giving everyone a deal. Every business that participates pays for their printing and racks. If you organize it, charge a little more where your share is paid for by the rest. This is a win-win situation where every business gets exposure.

Your staff and word of mouth  

Your staff is a valuable tool that is overlooked. Your staff, whether it is your pizza man, cashier or delivery person, all live in or near your business. They have friends, family, go to school and are members of local clubs. They are your voice, your word-of-mouth advertising. How do you make them talk and recommend your place? Incentives. Everyone loves incentives whether it is a night off, a free meal or a cash bonus. Assign every staff member a number and a few hundred takeout menus. Let them go out and promote your business when their menu comes back you give them the incentive you worked out.

In your bills and statements   

Why not attach your menu to your soda bill, distributor bill or insert it in your bank statement? Someone has to open your mail or cash your check. These people have to eat also. The most important point is how much money does your food distributor or bank collect from you a month? Do they ever order from your place? They have to eat somewhere. Remember, people who you give business to should give you business back. Write down a list of everyone you wrote a check out to last month. Then mark off who gave you business back. A customer of mine tried this one idea and now provides $200 worth of lunch every Friday for his local bank.

Make up a local guide for your area

Use your contacts from the brochure rack idea. This guide needs a local map of your area with points of interest. List important phone numbers as seen in your local yellow pages. The best part is the restaurant section. You are the publisher so you say who's in or out. You can put other non-competing restaurants in your guide, but leave your competition out. Place your menu on the first page of the restaurant section. The only cost to you is time. You have your menu and whatever it costs to get some binders and clear insert pages. You can charge a small fee to the other advertisers. When you have the guides ready drop them off at all your local hotels, motels and don't forget the places of interest. The staff at museums and attractions always recommends local places to tourists.

Make it into a mailer   

Use the back panel of your menu as a mailer. Put your return address and special offer here. You can mail your menu to local clubs, organizations, new movers, new homeowners and new businesses. You can buy these lists from a variety of mailing list companies for pennies a name. You can even get a list of every household in your zip code and do a mass mailing. If you plan to mail in large quantities, please contact your local post office or visit for information on bulk mailing discounts.

Taxi cab confessions

Taxi, limousine and shuttle bus drivers are a great asset for promoting your takeout menu and business. These drivers are in constant contact with fresh leads. Tourists and visitors trust local recommendations. Same as with your staff, provide each driver with a special number to put on his or her menus. When people bring in a menu with a number on it that person gets an incentive.


I hope these 10 ideas help you generate more sales and draw more customers to your business. Remember, "The more seeds you plant the more will grow."