How to Sell a $17 Sandwich:
Part I

by Dan Liu & Patil Varvarian

They can't put down our menu. For minutes, a customer would surf the menu, relaxed, and then be surprised when we ask if they need help. When they order, having already experienced the quality of the food, customers are happy to pay a premium price. When the food comes out, it is everything they have expected. Pure delight.

As a result, Domingo's Italian Deli is making more money. In numbers, average selling price increased by $2. In two months, the luxurious $17 sandwich —— "Monte Carlo" —— became the 5th most ordered product.

This is not your regular paper menu, nor a menu-on-iPad gimmick. It is a collaboration to visualize the real product on the menu, in retina quality:

  1. The kitchen takes authentic food photos.
  2. The servers curate the menu categories, order and descriptions based on customer feedback.
  3. The owner buys second-hand iPads to display the menus.

The Retina Menu

Want to see the menu yourself? Visit Domingo's Italian Deli! Alternatively, go to this url. Then pretend you're looking at that website on an iPad inside a deli store. Remember to come back, because I'm showing you, whether you're an employee or owner, how to do it yourself!

This guide will be split into two parts:

  1. Taking the photo.
  2. Curating the Menu.

If you need help, do email me at [email protected] Happy to assist.

Step 1: Setting the Background

First and foremost, we need a clean & bright background to place the food in. At Domingo's, we place a table directly under the light. We then cover it with large wax paper.

It is very important to have this ready before taking photos. Because this will ensure the first few photos you take will look good enough. It will help the team go through enough trial & error to get the best food presentation and smart-phone-camera angle.

Step 2: Taking the Photo

This is the hard part. The good news is, great artists steal. Browse Domingo's vast photo collection (we even have drinks and chips!) to get a feel for the type of food you're offering. What's more, here are 4 tips to take killer food photos for your menu, distilled from the bazillion photos we took:

  1. Let the ingredients shine. For example, at Domingo's, we positioned the sandwich so that the layers of ingredients are visible. For essential ingredients you want to highlight, place it next to it.
  2. Aim for consistent looks for food of the same category. This is crucial to a clean design. Customers will be able to compare items.
  3. Take a wider photo than you think. You can always crop the photo later but never "un-crop" it. This will make it easier to make the menu feel consistent.
  4. Take photos over time during slow hours. Don't try to take all in one shot. This will make things funner. Happy team takes happy photos.

Step 3: Tweaking the Photos

Now that you have a bunch of photos, on your smart phone or iPad, crop them to a square. It's important to have food of the same category be similar size —— giving customers a consistency feel. Below is a video demo of cropping on iPhone/iPad.

Optionally play around with your phone's color-editing functions. However, keep away from big brightness, color and contrast changes, as it will make the photos look fake. Once you have an ok look, you can do the same thing for all the other photos. Below is a video demo.

Reward Yourself

Congratulations! You finished the hardest part of making the menu. Celebrate. Show your customer your favorite photos.

Then come back to Part II: Curating The Menu, which isn't written yet, but will be sometime next week.

However if you want an early start, download Airtable to your Smart phone or tablet. It's a free application. We will upload our photos to it, and we will add names and prices to food and drinks. It will look like a fancy spreadsheet.

Then shoot me an email at [email protected], I would love to hear your experience so far, and get you started generating the menu.


The amazing menu & this guide would be impossible without the generous sponsorship of Carlo Ghailian, owner of Domingo's Italian Deli.

It would be impossible without the food presentation innovation of Cinzia💃, Sergio🦄, Santos💝 & Esperanza🌪.

It would be impossible without the leadership of Patil Varvarian & tech support of Dan Liu.