How to Plan a Restaurant Menu – Tips and Ideas
One area that needs your focused attention when you are starting out in the restaurant business is menu planning. Many new operators simply have no idea of how to plan a restaurant menu that caters to what their target market is looking for as well as being practical in terms of preparation.
In this article we take a closer look at restaurant menu planning and ten of the points that you have to consider as you start to assemble the necessary content.
Firstly, you have to think about your restaurant concept and the type of clientele that you are hoping to attract. These things will be affected by your location, restaurant premises and theme among other factors. Your overall concept will affect the style, quality and portion sizes of the cuisine that you will feature on your restaurant menus.
Different Types of Restaurant Menus
Most restaurant menus are static in that they are fixed for lengthy time periods and are not able to easily be changed. The alternative is to offer a menu that is constantly changing. The latter is great for restaurants that use seasonal ingredients that fluctuate in price such as seafood. ‘Soup of the day’ is another common menu variation that may change as often as daily. However it makes it difficult if new menus need to be printed frequently. Options for menus that vary frequently include writing your menu up on a chalk board or printing out special inserts with daily specials.
A la carte restaurant menus require customers to select menu items individually and everything is priced separately. On the other hand Prix Fixe menus offer several courses included in one set meal for a fixed price. Then there is buffet style dining which usually requires little in the way of menus at all but rather just descriptions on the dishes at the point where customers serve themselves.
One thing to remember when putting together a menu is to offer enough of a variety to give diners a great selection while also keeping it reasonably simple so that they don’t get overwhelmed. A simple menu will also likely reduce the number of errors while orders are being taken and give staff less headaches remembering details on each dish. A menu with a smaller range of offerings will also make it easier for you to manage your inventory and to reduce food waste.
Consult a Chef
At the lower end of the restaurant spectrum you can basically do your restaurant menu planning and then hire kitchen staff that are capable of making the dishes that you have in mind. However, if you will be hiring a chef then you will need to consult with him or her on the style of cuisine that he or she specializes in. A chef will no doubt be able to offer invaluable tips and advice on your menu so it is well worth consulting one if possible.
Testing and Tweaking
Before you go ahead and include a dish on your menu it is important to decide on exactly how the dish will be made and presented. It not only has to meet your personal taste but should also meet the tastes of the general public. Before you launch a new menu item it is important to do some testing. Get some opinions from cooks or chefs and look for slight modifications that could be made to improve a dish even more.
Kitchen Space and Equipment
Your menu possibilities may be limited by the size of the kitchen space that you have available or by the equipment that is required to make certain menu items. Do an assessment of the equipment that you have and the equipment that you are prepared to buy at the same time as you are planning your menu.
Something for Everyone
Try to cater to a wide range of tastes and dietary requirements if possible. You may have a separate menu section for children or your menu may include options for vegetarians. Allergies are a concern for many these days so you should have additional menu notes that staff can refer to. If they are asked by diners if certain dishes contain peanuts, eggs or other common ingredients that people are allergic to then they should be able to offer accurate information. Include as much critical information about these ingredients on a menu as possible.
Let Customers Personalize a Dish
One nice idea is to allow your customers to have some input into the dish that they want to order. At the basic level they could just be choosing between french fries or a baked potato. To take it a step further they could be choosing sauces, salad dressings, different kinds of cheeses or the intensity of spices such as chili that may be added to the meal.
Trends in food can change faster then most people think so you may want to follow these food trends and make alterations to your menu accordingly, to keep up with the times. Members of the public have been educated about cuisine by celebrity chefs on TV or may be following the latest dietary craze that is getting attention in the media such as the low-carb diet.
More than One Menu?
More upscale restaurants usually need more than one menu. A separate drinks menu or wine list is common but other courses such as dessert could also have their own menu. You may also require menus for different times of the day such as breakfast time.
If you want to open a restaurant and succeed then it is essential that you know how to plan a restaurant menu, how to set menu prices and how to design a menu in a way that maximizes sales and the diner’s experience.