Your menu is at the heart of your concept. For example, your general concepts may be a fast casual barbecue restaurant. The specific menu items that you choose for your restaurant however can put several different spins on this general concept. You could be more of a place for Texas style ribs ir you could be a Southern food specialist. The food that a restaurant serves is literally what defines it and so it is deserving of your careful consideration and planning. Your menu will also drive many of your other decisions and planning such as the size and layout of your location, the types of equipment you'll need and many more critical items.
Most people who are starting a restaurant at least a general idea of the menu that they would like to offer but can get stuck when it comes time to actually consider the details of full menu. A good place to start is by gathering the menus of half a dozen other similar concept competitors as well as any other restaurants you're looking to for inspiration. Make a list of your must haves, your maybies and your probably nots. Most restaurants have a few items that become their most popular offerings. These signature items are usually unique to the concept in some way and offer a twist on what everyone else has. With a list of all the ideas from your competition and your starting point ideas on what will constitute your central menu items that you can begin to sketch out a full selection of items to work on further.
A menu would be easy to plan if all you had to worry about was what sounded good. Unfortunately there are many other considerations that you must also take into account to create a menu that will work on all of the required levels.
Here are some additional items you must consider when planning your meu:
Let's consider some otf these items in more detail. Based on the type of concept you are planning their will be an expected price range but you must fit your food items into. If you're planning a fast food restaurant Daniel have a tough time going over seven or maybe eight dollars for any single item. On the other end of the scale you may want to have some items under two dollars. Your best bet for any type of menu is to offer a range so that you can accommodate the needs of a larger group of guests. Don't expect that you will automatically be able to charge more because you feel like you're using better than average ingredients or more care in style in your preparation. People will come with certain expectations and if you fall outside the range of expectations you will find that it will negatively impact your sales despite whatever justification you may feel you are offering.
In direct relation to the prices you are charging for your food you must give careful consideration to your food costs as you plan your menu. While each item will vary to some extent you want to make sure that your sales average out to the food costs that make sense for your restaurant. 30% food cost is a very general figure for restaurants overall. Run the numbers for your restaurant financial software to find out where you're coming in and also speak to people who own restaurant concept similar to the one you're planning and find out what their average food costs are for comparison.
Part of the way that you can help control the food cost is to make sure that by adjusting the types of ingredients and the portion sizes of your menu items you can offer good value for the price charged without going too high on your food cost to keep your restaurant viable. To the extent that you can use one ingredient in multiple menu items you will not only simplify your order in it will also help you keep your food cost down by minimizing waste and your labor costs down by reducing the number of items your staff must deal with. You can also experiment with different levels of quality printer from ingredients and by deciding whether or not certain things will be made from scratch or bought premade.
One way to make your menu player without adding any additional work is to offer different portion sizes on the menu for the same item. You can also offer to add or subtract parts of a certain menu item to create additional options. For example, on many menus you'll see a Caesar salad offered in the salad section and a chicken Caesar salad offered in the entrée section. In reality of course this is the same item with the simple addition of a slightly larger portion and a side of protein.
As you work on your menu you should also give consideration to how the items in your menu may be combined. Our their natural groupings of appetizers, entrées and desserts? If there are, or you have things which when ordered on their own would pair well with anything else on your menu you should either reconsider including them or add something else they would work with if you're sure you want to keep it. When you do find that there are natural groupings of items you may want to consider highlighting those options on your printed menu and encourage your customers to order the combination. Studies have shown that customers perceive more value from combined offerings even if the price of the items is not reduced in the combo. This is true not just of fast food but at all levels of restaurant dining. People just seem to like having the options laid out for them ahead of time so they don't have to think too hard about what to get.
Generally speaking the smaller your menu the better. A menu that lists dozens and dozens of options or even hundreds is not only intimidating to your guest but can become a nightmare to manage in the kitchen. The larger the menu the more agreed to must have on hand and the harder it is to properly stock everything to account for any unusual demand and at the same time minimize your spoilage. A dozen main options is usually plenty and when combined with appetizers, sides and desserts there should be plenty of choice to satisfy your guests in most cases. There are exceptions, of course, but as a new independent restaurant owner is better not to go down this path.
You would also be wise to avoid a menu that combines two or more distinctly different types of food. Although a restaurant that offers both Mexican and Chinese food may seem like a way to double your chances of capturing a customer in reality most people assume that a restaurant like this will do both types of food poorly and will generally avoid the restaurant. There are a few combinations that can work, such as combining doughnuts and ice cream, where one is typically a breakfast item and the other an afternoon or evening food, but this is a rare exception and probably not one you should try.
The other thing to keep in mind when planning your menu is that you're never truly limited because you can always offer specials. For example, offering a year-round fish item may not be a good idea because the cost of the fish may vary so much seasonally or even be unavailable part of the year. You could however offered as a special during the times of the year when the cost is favorable. During other times of the year you can offer different special. The more creative you get with your specials the more chances you have to lure your regulars in to try something new and at the same time attract new customers who may not have been excited by your regular menu.
The first step in planning your menu is to do it on paper. The second step is to determine all the ingredients that will go into each item and reconfigure your menu somewhat to try and minimize the total number of ingredients required. Once you have a starting point and the third step is to start actually making the items and further refined portion size, ingredient list and production procedures. Once you start actually making some of the items you may find that some require too much labor in the preparation or that others will simply have to be priced too high in order to accommodate the ingredients you had in mind. As you work through your menu you will eventually arrive at your final list of items. Once you have this, you can move forward with much of the rest of your planet and until you do this much of your planning will remain unspecific or at a standstill.
Copyright 2001- RestaurantFunds.com