Basic rule for any communication in writing: it must be legible.
Basic rule for a menu: it must be skim-readable—just like web content. Otherwise it's not accessible.
The owners of Manon, a new French-Italian restaurant (yes, you read that right) in Newtown, Wellington, went mad with their marketing campaign and foolishly popped a flyer in my letter box.
What were they thinking? This crazy calligraphy had me peering in puzzlement at the first three items under E (for entree, I guess). At that point I stopped peering.
Sure, I could read it: Gazpacho w Avocado Quenelle & toasted buttered brioche: see? But by the time I'd deciphered the third entree I couldn't remember the first one. All my brain energy had been used up by deciphering, not reading.
People read menus in a particular way, and this particular menu thwarted me before I began.
Normally, the process of choosing dishes at a restaurant is exquisite self torture and an intrinsic delight of eating out. I don't know about you, but I tend to skim-read a menu, browse a bit, re-examine some items in detail, make tentative choices, check what my friends have chosen, skim-read again to make sure I've not missed anything. Only at that point am I ready to order. (Unless at Kiallis, where I eat haloumi salad. Or Nikau: kedgeree.)
Then the dish comes and the excitement is partly because of this mighty existential question: Did I choose well, or did I make a mistake?
It's all good... as long as the physical act of skim-reading is easy, relaxed, automatic.
With the Manon menu, patrons will spend far too much time and effort actually reading. They'll have to read every word. They can't skim-read.
I bet an awful lot of people settle for the first main on the list. Chef, get cracking on tonight's first truckload of that Grilled Crispy CanterValley Half Duck w Lemon Braised Chickory & Drambuie ginger sauce. All that struggling makes the punters hungry.