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Eric Bui

Allison Bocchino

Writing 2

11 December 2019

What’s On Today’s Menu?

When people see the word genre, the first thing that comes to mind is literature or film.

Common examples of genre in literature/film are romance, comedy, horror, action, etc. These are

our stereotypes of the word “genre”. Those examples are, in fact, genres. However, there is a

much broader spectrum of what can be identified as a genre. Look no further than your local

McDonalds or cozy breakfast cafe, and you’ll find a perfect example of a genre the moment you

walk in. Menus display the various types of food items that are offered in restaurants all across

the world. The way the menus are presented vary with each restaurant you go to and the food

itself will certainly vary depending on the kind of restaurant it is. Nevertheless, they all share the

common exigence of informing the audience of what food the restaurant has to offer. Although

they all share the overarching purpose of generating profit for the restaurant, each menu is

specially produced in order to successfully reach that goal in their own unique way through the

menu’s form, visual aesthetic, and language.

Menus can vary depending on the restaurant it is produced from. A fast food restaurant

with its main menu item being burgers may have simple paper fold out menus. In many cases,

there may not be a menu you can hold in your hand, but rather a menu on a screen. A unique

example of this is from the drive in restaurant Sonic. Sonic is an old fashioned drive-in restaurant

where you park, order, and eat all in the same place. The menus are screens that are lined up

along each parking space, allowing the driver to order through a microphone attached to the

menu. What sets this menu apart from most others is its form. Sonic produces its menus and style

of ordering in this specific way due to the fact that the restaurant has a different exigence in

mind: customer convenience. This unique style allows customers to easily examine the options

available, order their food from their parking spot, and have their food delivered directly to the

car. A second example of unique menu structure can be seen at sushi restaurants. Sushi

restaurant menus typically list the types of sushi and rolls the restaurant has to offer. However,

the ordering menu and system have a distinct form that sets sushi restaurants apart from other

restaurants. The customer is given an “ordering menu”, which is a slip of paper listing all the

sushi options available with empty boxes next to each option. The customer orders by

checkmarking each box, indicating which type of sushi they want. This system of ordering is

divided into rounds, typically three. In contrast to the menu and ordering system of Sonic

restaurants being produced with customer convenience in mind; the production of menus and

system of ordering at sushi restaurants is done with more focus towards employee convenience.

Making sushi is a delicate process and many would consider it a form of culinary art. Therefore,

producing a menu in which customers order by rounds using simple pencil markings makes the

process much more simple for all parties, especially cooks. The exigence of the menu plays a

crucial role in the production of its form and vice versa. Another example of a unique type of

menu form is McDonalds’ new digital menus. At newer high-tech McDonald’s restaurants, there

are digital screens that allow access to McDonalds’ entire menu. Through this, a customer can

now explore the entire menu digitally and order and pay through the same machine. With this,

physical menus need no longer exist and the jobs of cashiers in some places become void. This

form of menu is produced with the company’s best interests in mind as well as customer

convenience. With the production of these machines, McDonalds can hire less employees and as

a result, reduce their payroll. This exigence goes parallel with their purpose: save money while

also making more money. The form of a menu is specifically produced in order to reflect the

restaurant’s function and benefit either one or more parties involved.

While the form of a menu plays a crucial role in exemplifying the extent of a restaurant

menu’s unique characteristics, the visual aesthetic regarding the contents within the menu itself

greatly contributes to the menu’s special qualities as well. Take sushi restaurants for instance.

When dining at a sushi restaurant, the ordering menu typically comes with a counterpart picture

menu that provides images of all the items. Many people order sushi not just by the ingredients

listed, but by image as well. The pictures of sushi appeals to the audience’s visual sense,

prompting them to order whatever looks appetizing. As a result, the picture menu plays a huge

role in the ordering process as well. Another example that showcases the importance of visuals is

seen from Sonic once again. As with most fast food restaurants, each food item is listed with its

price, a picture, and details of its ingredients. In many cases, the image is altered to be more

appealing to the customers. The sight of visually appealing food will automatically incite hunger

simply due to human nature, therefore encouraging customers to buy the food. The images

within menus draws in customers and encourages them to purchase food items based on how

visually pleasing it may look, successfully fulfilling the purpose of informing the audience of

menu items and making profit.


In addition to the visual aspects, the language component within menus play their own

role in providing information to customers as well as drawing their attention. McDonalds has

created an array of menu items that consists of the word “Mac” or the short prefix “Mc” in their

name. These short, yet catchy additions to the names of their items such as ‘Big Mac” or

“Chicken McNuggets” allow customers to remember them more easily. If customers remember

the names of certain items more than others, it’ll have a positive effect on the amount of times

the customer may order from that restaurant. Further evidence of the impact of language in

menus can be seen in Sonic’s menu as well. The menu includes information on deals Sonic has

such as a “Happy Hour”, where certain items are only 99 cents. This promotion on the menu is

another way to attract customers since food will be cheaper during select hours. Language in

menus can also be used to emphasize certain health facts regarding certain food items. This can

be seen from the menu of The Habit Burger Grill. The menu states that their burgers are made

with “100% fresh ground beef” and that they only use “100% trans-fat free vegetable oil”.1

These statements provide information to customers regarding the health quality of their

ingredients while at the same time, encouraging them to dine at their restaurant due to their

supposed high level of health. With the use of language from menus, customers are informed of

certain deals, promotions, or advertisements that draw their attention to the restaurant. The use of

catchy phrases and easily remembered names add to the restaurant’s long lasting impression on

the customer as well, helping the restaurant successfully achieve their overall purpose of gaining


"The Menu Charburgers." The Menu Charburgers | Habit Burger.

Menus are an integral component to the function and success of a restaurant. According

to her article “Navigating Genres”, Kerry Dirk references Amy Devitt, a professor specializing in

the study of genre theory as saying, “Genres have the power to help or hurt human interaction, to

ease communication or to deceive…”2 With this, one has to keep in mind the constraints of the

genre. Every restaurant has the constant constraint of the ingredients they have in stock or the

ingredients required to produce their food item. Sonic has a unique problem when it comes to

constraints as there is only a certain capacity of cars they can have at the menus. Once the

restaurant is at capacity, the menus cannot be accessed and the ordering of food will be halted. It

is clear that the unique “drive-in” aspect of Sonic restaurants affects the production of its menu

and provides a special form of the genre of “restaurant menus” as well. In contrast, one can look

towards sushi restaurants in order to observe a different type of constraint. The unique

constraints of sushi menus is that it allows the customer to order a maximum of three rounds of

sushi. Evidently, the delicate process of sushi making plays a big role in how the menu is

produced as it must correspond with the most effective system for ordering sushi and creating it,

therefore giving reason for the three round constraint. Lastly, when examining McDonalds’

restaurants, one can recognize the constraints of the high-tech menus to be internal software.

If the ordering machine malfunctions or has a glitch, it can no longer be of use until repairs are

made. Once this happens, traditional cashiers and menus are once again of use. As successful as

these menus are in fulfilling their purpose through their specific form and function, it is

important to consider the constraints and how they affect this genre.

Kerry Dirk. “Navigating Genres” Writing 2: Academic Writing (2019): 1-8

All restaurant menus share the same basic exigence and all restaurants share the same

purpose: inform customers of their products and make money. Take into consideration three very

different menus from Sonic, sushi restaurants, and McDonalds. Each of these menus is produced

in a very specific way that pertains to the function of the restaurant. The form and function will

always remain parallel to each other; and these menus, although containing wildly different

forms, all fall under the same genre. Genres are characteristic, recurring responses containing

written or spoken language that address certain situations.3 A restaurant menu responds to the

need of a customer, consistently informing them of what the restaurant has to offer. As no two

restaurants are one in the same, the form, visual aesthetic, and language of the menu will vary.

However, these unique qualities are what allow each restaurant menu to successfully fulfill their

overall purpose of generating profit and being informative to their audience.

Lisa Bickmore, “Genre in the Wild: Understanding Genre Within Rhetorical (Eco)systems,” Press Books, Open
English, @SLCC


Bickmore, Lisa. “GENRE in the WILD: Understanding Genre Within Rhetorical (Eco)Systems.”

Press Books ​ Open English @ SLCC, 1 Aug. 2016,

Dirk, Kerry. “Navigating Genres” ​Writing 2​: Academic Writing (2019): 1-8

"The Menu Charburgers." The Menu Charburgers | Habit Burger.