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The Importance of a Balanced Menu

What is menu balancing?

Menu balancing is the process of crafting a list of food items to offer variety to customers. It is part of the menu engineering process that ensures the diversification of products. For a restaurant, it is concerned with providing diners with options based on main and supporting ingredients, cooking techniques, price points, flavors, colors, textures, sizes, and shapes. A balanced menu example has chicken, beef, pork, fish, and plant-based main dishes cooked through grilling, steaming, roasting, frying, or braising. 

Why is a balanced menu important?

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

How to achieve balance in a menu?

Consider these five factors 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
  • The availability of healthy options
  • The ratio of dishes within each section

In terms of price points, a menu should have less than 10% low-profit dishes, more than 30% high-profit dishes, and more than 50% high-profit top-sellers.

The menu should also have more than 20% healthy dishes or one healthy option per section. Healthy substitutes or alternatives should also be made available to diners.

How to design an accurate menu?

Menu balancing also ensures menu accuracy. A good and accurate menu is a menu that:

  • Is honest and reliable.
  • Has good menu descriptions to influence diners’ decisions and selections.
  • Effectively communicates offerings, methods and techniques, and prices.

The Rules of a Good Menu Balance

To help communicate your balanced and accurate menu to customers, promote your dishes and avoid misrepresentations by considering 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, producers classify food products according to quality grades. Restaurants use descriptors like prime, grade A, good, no. 1, and choice to represent quality. 

3. Representation of price

Indicate menu prices and other charges to guide customers during payment. Menus should also indicate any additional fees like service charge (gratuity), corkage fee, or cover charge.

4. Representation of brand names

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

5. Representation of product identification

Actual ingredients used and substitutes must be declared. A balanced menu example labels beverages as sweetened with a non-sugar sweetener.

6. Representation of origin

Identify the source of ingredients if it carries prestige or assurance of quality. Restaurants can attract customers and boost sales using the names of places where ingredients originate. Some examples are Maine lobster, Idaho potatoes, or Danish bleu cheese.

7. Representation of advertising terms

Advertising exaggerations and misleading words and statements are not acceptable. For example, the term “jumbo” 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

Avoid labeling items that are already frozen or chilled as “fresh.” “Bottled” is different from “canned.”

9. Representation of food preparation

When you say “charcoal-broiled,” it has to be cooked with charcoal and not an electric broiler. “Prepared from scratch” cannot be used for food prepared using convenience products.

10. Verbal and visual presentation

The rules of a good menu balance also cover optics. Make sure to serve guests what they see on the menu and promotional materials. Colors, textures, and portion sizes must stay true to their visual presentation.

11. Dietary or nutritional claims

Use appropriate dietary terms, such as low-fat, sugar-free, and salt-free.

Take the time to craft a balanced menu to ensure that your guests are offered variety. This effort helps in broadening your market and increasing sales. Every few months, evaluate your dishes, identify areas of improvement, and recraft your menu for accuracy.

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.