This is a semi-secret-side hustle that I’ve had brewing in my mind for the past couple of years. But since I never actually acted on it, I decided to go ahead and write about it for our readers. I have read of people doing this, but with how busy I’ve gotten with other enterprises, I’ve just never had the time to try it out. Can you really make money designing menus for local restaurants?
Here’s the idea.
What Exactly Is This Side Hustle?
Alright, so I got this idea when I went to eat at this tiny little sports bar in a little bitty town not far from my own hometown. If you’ve never done much traveling, you should know that there are THOUSANDS of these little hole-in-the-wall places scattered all over the Midwest.
They are little mom-and-pop restaurants that achieved success in their local hometown and stayed open, despite the challenges of operating a local restaurant.
Well, I got a menu and opened it up. It was HORRENDOUS! I just ordered the special. I didn’t even look closely at the faded wording, the grammar errors, or the poorly-taken pictures of the main dishes they featured five years ago when the menus were actually designed.
I started thinking to myself… how much business did they lose to the larger chain restaurant down the highway every month due to their poorly designed (and super-old) menus?
I have a bit of experience with graphic design. I also enjoy amateur photography. I am not a pro at either of these things, mind you… but I am good enough at them to know that I could have definitely designed better menus than these!
And that is where the side-hustle idea was born.
What if I…
- Designed a beautiful menu to use as a promotional tool
- Printed that menu out
- Went in to local restaurants, offering to build them better menus for an affordable price
- And made some sweet side-hustle cash in the process?
This would actually be a really easy side-hustle for me. A few quick Youtube tutorials quickly showed me how easy it was to level-up my food photography. Plus, I had enough graphic design work experience and software on-hand to get the job done without being required to buy anything else.
I literally had everything I needed. Nowadays, you could almost do everything for a project like this on a smart phone with the right apps! That is how easy this job is for the right person!
Obviously, you also need to have a few ‘other’ skills to make it work. It helps if you are a good writer. It also helps if you know how to layout simple graphics. Granted, if you are going at this side-hustle cold-turkey, it is probably going to be quite a challenge.
But if you have already had some experience laying out graphics, taking pictures, and writing copy… then it should not actually be that big of a deal.
You also need to know how to format the entire thing for printing and plan that all out. But then again… if you have done much printing, you probably know how to do this as well.
So what we are left with is a side-hustle that would be incredibly easy for the person with the right skills and experience.
How Much Money Could You Make Designing Menus For Local Restaurants?
This is a difficult question to answer… mostly because it depends on what type of restaurants you are targeting, and on you specific demographic.
There are services like https://www.musthavemenus.com that let you design your own menus for a monthly fee. These could be utilized by restaurants, but they could also be utilized by graphic designers who are working toward designing menus as a side-hustle or side-business.
If I were going to start this side-hustle, I would offer a deal like this.
- I would ask if I could take one of their menus home.
- Then I would generate a prototype replacement (obviously with no food pics, or possibly with mock food-pics to show how professional they could look, as I would not have had the opportunity to take actual pictures of their food yet) and schedule a meeting with the owner to show it to him/her.
- At the meeting, I would pitch the new menu, along with stats about how a quality menu helps with repeat business.
- I would quote them a figure where they are paying for the printing, and I would angle it to where I earned about $150 for my work in the ordeal.
- Depending on how many menus they need, this would be super-cheap… but it would also eliminate almost all of the work on their end.
Once you got a few jobs under your belt, you could use older menus as a reference to gain new business… which would produce a very positive ‘snowball’ effect. This could actually help you to grow the side hustle and give you leverage for new contracts.
You could also build recurring income into this side hustle by selling ‘menu updates’ every six months or 12 months. Menus do change, and keeping them updated is actually very important! You could even give businesses a discount on an update when you sell them the first package. This could be one of the selling points to help you drive up the value of your service to them.
What Would You Need To Make This Side Hustle Work?
There are a couple of things that you would need to make this side hustle work. First of all, you will need some writing skills, as menu design does require you to do some copywriting.
Secondly, you are going to need a computer and a computer program to ‘lay out’ the menu design. This could be done with a number of different programs. I would personally recommend Adobe Photoshop, but you could probably even get a lot done using the website we linked to above. Either way, you need some kind of software that would allow you to lay everything out nicely.
Third, you would either need a good digital camera with some decent food-photography skills, or you would need to hire a photographer to get good pictures of the food for the menu.
This may be even more important if the company wants their menus to go digital. The photographs will need to be pristine for this medium, so it is very important that you put ample consideration into this before attempting the side hustle.
And fourth, you are going to need some salesman skills, along with some quality design skills. It would also not hurt to create a website for your side hustle, along with some references on it. For best results, create a couple of test menus just to get some experience, and so that you have references to show people.
Obviously, this side hustle is going to be much easier for someone who already has stock in the graphic-design world, or who is already into web design or photography. But… with that being said, the skills required to design menus are pretty basic, so even a novice could practice and learn if they took their time and took it seriously.
My Personal Feelings About This Side Hustle
I love the idea of this side hustle, and there is a part of me that really regrets that I never tried it. I just got so busy with my other work projects that I ran out of time (for the moment, at least) to try new things like this!
Plus, I am not as into graphic design these days… so I feel like ‘getting back into the game’ would be rather labor intensive for me.
But for someone who loves graphic design and the food service industry, this could be a pretty cool way to earn a side-hustle income. It could also possibly turn into a full-scale business if you were to build it up enough.
Nowadays, there are a lot of resources available for restaurants looking to do their own design. The website we linked to above is just one example. But you will also find that some restaurant owners simply don’t want to deal with it… and that is where you could come in and do a lot of good! You could make some extra money while also helping them to update their menu and make it pretty!
So yeah. If this sounds like your kind of side hustle, give it a try! It may not make you rich, but it could be a pretty awesome opportunity for the right person!
Our Final Opinion About Designing Menus For Local Businesses
Should you try to pitch your services to local restaurants to win some menu-creation jobs?
There are a lot of ways to make money online. Some are good, some not, but ALL of them are still just trading hours for dollars.
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