Developing the Right Menu for Your Food Service Business
Developing the right menu for your restaurant requires both figuring out the dishes that you want to offer, as well as a menu style that reflects your restaurant. Your menu items should attract customers and draw them into your establishment. It should offer foods that people want, rather than things you or your chef want to make. The menu should be displayed in the window of your restaurant so passers-by can view the menu, understand your theme, and decide if this is the place they want to dine.
Developing your menu items and menu style takes a lot of thought and planning, here are some of the things you may want to consider.
Decide Which Foods to Offer
The ideal restaurant menu should offer a balance of dishes that fit the theme of your restaurant, along with some tried and true favorites. The unique dishes you choose to prepare should be ones that you are set up to prepare, taking into account your access to the right ingredients, the proper equipment, adequate kitchen space, and knowledable kitchen staff. The executive chef should be part of the menu planning and you should be incorporating their specialties into your menu planning.
Your Target Audience
You will also need to take into consideration your target audience. If you want to become a fine dining establishment that caters to upscale clientele, then your menu items will be vastly different from a casual family restaurant. The same is true if you are specializing in a certain type of cuisine. You want to make sure your menu items are geared towards the audience you are trying to target. It is not a good idea to mix up genres, as that creates customer confusion.
Test Your Menu Items
Next you will want to explore and test the various dishes you are planning to serve. It is important that you figure out exactly how each dish will be prepared and served and this should remain constant. You and your staff should work together to test out each recipe until you have it perfected. Then it must be standardized, trying as best to can to ensure that it will come out the same way each time it is made.
You should also take into consideration how the food will be presented. Lots of thought must be put into the type of glassware, dinnerware and oven-to-table bakeware you think will accent your menu items and highlight the flavor of your diehes to their fullest potential. Your menu items plus their presentation, will help you design your menu.
Design Your Menu
Once you have decided what you will be serving, it is time to work on the usability of your menu. There are several different menu styles to choose from, find one that is consistent with your restaurant’s theme. Most good menus are arranged in sequential order, and grouped in such a way that they enable customers to work their way down a list of foods, beginning with appetizers and ending with desserts. In a well-organized, standout menu, customers can find what they want easily and they will thank you for that.
There are also al a carte menus, prix-fixed menus and combination menus. In an al a carte menu, the items are priced separately, in a prix-fix menu, courses are grouped together with fewer choices, but one lower price. In a combination menu, both of these styles are combined, where customers can choose prix-fix options, like a breakfast special or a dinner special, or mix and match choices from each category.
Menu Style Options
You will also need to choose a menu style that works for your restaurant. You should choose a style based on your restaurant theme that uses your brand and your logo. Consistency is also important. If you have a family-oriented restaurant that features pizza, burgers and fries, you will want your menu to appeal to parents and their kids. Your menu might feature bright colors, bold fonts and perhaps some kid-oriented food illustrations. For an upscale French restaurant, you might want to choose subtle fonts, and decorate with illustrations of vines or flowers. The choices are many and require much thought and consideration.
Once you have developed the right menu for your restaurant, you will need to add new and different menu options to keep your customers coming back for more. Owning a restaurant means that you will always need to diversify your menu options and keep things interesting for your customers. Luckily for you, in the food business, the options are virtually endless.