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Module 3: The Importance of Menu Planning

A Balanced Menu

A balanced menu should offer variety in a way that suits the concept and purpose of your establishment, without diluting the unique selling point (USP) of your restaurant.

Why is a balanced menu important?

  • It gives substance to the business
  • It makes guests notice what exactly they like, without realising it
  • It allows guests to easily choose what they want, at the price they would expect to pay

How do we achieve balance in a menu?

Six factors to consider when creating a menu to ensure the right amount of variety and balance:

  • The spread of dishes and ingredients used
  • The spread of price points and profitability
  • The seasonality within the dishes
  • Healthy options
  • The ratio of dishes within each section

The spread of dishes and ingredients used

As a general rule, a menu should have 20% of dishes in each section feature the same accompanying dish components and 20% of dishes in the menu use the same cooking method.

The seasonality within the dishes

Have more than 30% seasonal dishes on your menu with more than 2 seasonal dishes per section.

The ratio of dishes within each section

  • Have 3 to 6 sections on your main menu and 2 to 4 sections on other menus
  • Have 4 to 12 dishes per section
  • Avoid having more than 12 dishes so as not to confuse your diners

The spread of price points and profitability

A good menu should have less than 10% low profit dishes, more than 30% high profit dishes and more than 50% high profit top sellers.

Healthy options

  • Have more than 20% of healthy dishes on the menu or 1 healthy option per section
  • Have healthy substitutes or alternatives made available to diners (as service exceptions)

Menu Accuracy

A good menu is a menu that:

Is honest, accurate and reliable

Has good menu descriptions to influence  diners’ decisions and selections

Communicate what is offered, how dishes are cooked and the price

Menu Accuracy Guidelines

Ensure your menu is accurate, promote your dishes and avoid misrepresentations. Consider the following guidelines:

1. Representation of quantity

Information related to quantity must be clear and accurately stated.

2. Representation of quality

In developed countries like the United States, food products are classified according to quality grades. Use words like Prime, Grade A, Good, No. 1, Choice, and other quality descriptions for officially certified foods.

3. Representation of price

Menu prices and other charges must be clearly indicated so that customers know how much they need to pay when ordering. This should also include service charge (gratuity), and any extra charges such as corkage fee, cover charge, etc.

4. Representation of brand names

Restaurants are expected to serve whatever brand they claim to be using. For example, a restaurant that advertises itself as serving Kobe beef must ensure the claims are true.

5. Representation of product identification

Actual ingredients used and substitutes must be declared. For example, descriptions like: ‘sweetened with non-sugar sweetener’.

6. Representation of origin

Identify the source of ingredients if it carries prestige, or an assurance of quality. Restaurants can attract customers and boost sales using the names of places where the ingredients come from. For example: Maine lobster, Idaho potatoes, Danish bleu cheese.

7. Representation of advertising terms

Advertising exaggerations and misleading words and statements are not acceptable. For example, using the term ‘jumbo hotdog’ for a regular-sized hotdog is misleading. Descriptions must be truthful for dishes such as low-calorie desserts and aged steaks.

8. Representation of means of preservation

Terms like ‘frozen’ are not the same as fresh. ‘Bottled’ is different from ‘canned’.

9. Representation of food preparation

When you say ‘charcoal-broiled’, it has to be really charcoal-broiled, and not broiled using a broiler. ‘Prepared from scratch’ cannot be used for food prepared using convenience products.

10. Verbal and visual presentation

What is shown in menu folders and menu boards must be exactly what will be served to guests. Portion sizes must be as pictured.

11. Dietary or nutritional claims

Appropriate dietary terms must be used. For example, ‘low-fat’, ‘sugar-free’, salt-free’.

Congratulations, you’ve completed the A Balanced and Accurate Menu topic!

Continue to the next topic or pick a related topic from the Importance of Menu Planning module, or go back to the Chefmanship Academy modules page.

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