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Fresh is best: Are the flavours and presentation of your menu appealing?

Wednesday, 28 August 2013 | By Trevor Jenkins

When was the last time that you changed your menu? Do you change your menu with the seasons? Does your chef stay up to date with current trends? Do your suppliers communicate with you to tell you what’s good and what’s not?


Before your chef writes a new menu, it’s good practice to have a sit-down meeting to review the standing of the business and the point of sale (POS) breakdown of what has sold well in recent history.


Then, get the trusty red pen and start the culling process! From here, you must objectively look at numbers of dishes sold – not whether you or your friends like them. Once a short list has been created, the groundwork for a new menu starts.


Emotional eating

One of the biggest problems faced when it comes to menu creation is when owners become emotionally attached to certain dishes and can’t let go or, my biggest pet hate, when the owner visits a competitor’s venue and comes back with a ‘bright idea’ to steal their best dishes!


As a café or restaurant owner, you (should) have hired a professional chef to run your kitchen; let them do what they’re best at, what you’re paying them for! 


The menu creation process is not as simple as saying “I like steak, let’s put a steak on the menu”. Creating a seasonal and satisfying menu that will provide return on investment to your business is a skill worth exercising on a regular basis.


Where to start

Start by researching the demographics of the area.


What are your competitors doing? Don’t do the same! What is the availability of particular products from your supplier? Does a dish cost more than what your customers would be willing to pay?  


Have all your research within reach when discussing options with your chef and ensure you make decisions based on what’s best for the business.


Chef’s considerations


Then, your chef needs to look at:

  • The flavours
  • The colours,
  • The textures,
  • The cooking methods,
  • The logistics in the kitchen,
  • The capability of the staff (both back of house and front of house),
  • The plates and the kitchen equipment.


After considering all of this, the menu can be written.


It is the chef’s responsibility to be creative and to bring new ideas into the kitchen. One way this can be done is by putting on a ‘special of the day’ and paying attention to the reactions from the punters.


In these cases, it’s very important that the front of house team communicate any feedback to the chef: the good the bad and the indifferent. By doing this, you’ll have a very good indication of what the customers are willing to try and how much they are willing to pay.


The best thing that has happened for menu creation over the past few years is the explosion of reality cooking programs; it has given a kick to the industry, forcing the venues to lift their game. Customers have become much more educated and food-savvy and are walking into venues with a much more confident approach to trying new foods and the level of professionalism they expect while eating out.


It’s time to look at your menu and change it for the better.


For all questions and concerns hospitality related, contact Trevor of Gastronomic Solutions.