One of the most challenging things for a new restaurant or an established one is menu planning—creating a new one or updating your current one. Your menu is there to bring customers in and give meaning to the overall experience. More than that, planning your restaurant’s carte du jour in advance affects the back-of-house operations. If done well, a menu plan will help reduce food waste, increase storage efficiency, and cut costs.
For restaurants offering multiple types of dishes, it might be challenging to set a list that looks promising to be presented as a menu. Understanding the fundamentals of planning a menu can make your establishment stand out.
The Importance of Menu Planning
Menu planning is a crucial process in every restaurant business. Planning it out in advance will benefit the business in different touchpoints, from sourcing the right ingredients in time to streamlining the processes in the kitchen.
Here’s what you need to consider:
- Your guests
- Production and service capabilities
- Availability of ingredients
- Food cost
A cohesive menu pattern is the driving force of any acclaimed food & beverage establishment. Dishes that interest you as a chef may not be the same as dishes that capture the hearts of your diners. Hence, you need to consider the imperative aspects of menu planning.
The first consideration when menu planning is understanding your guests. By having a clear view of your ideal customer profile, you will determine what kind of menu will appeal to them.
One way to start is to figure out their 5Ws: who they are, why they eat out, what kind of food they like to eat, when they eat, and where they prefer to eat. Understand their characteristics and potential issues—health conditions, nutritional needs, and religious restrictions included.
Another important factor is pricing. Figure out the price range so your guests will be comfortable paying for your meals. This will help your business meet its needs and expectations.
For an in-depth discussion on your target audience, read the module Understanding Your Diners. Know what the 6 diner types are and their needs and the 5 things what diners look out for to understand them better.
Production and Service Capabilities
There are many factors to consider in terms of your business’ production and service capabilities. Given the size of the establishment—particularly the kitchen and service area—what tools and equipment can fit there?
Production-wise, consider if your available tools and equipment are enough for preparation and service. Do they meet the requirements of the dishes you’re planning to offer on the menu? If yes, determine the capacity on how much food can be dished out during service time.
In terms of staffing, how do you envision your ideal team to operate the business smoothly? Knowing how to get the right people is critical. Consider your priorities when hiring your staff and their skills and experience. Do they need to be graduates of culinary schools, or is previous restaurant experience enough?
When planning a menu, you’ll also have a clearer understanding of what dishes and cooking methods the staff needs to be familiar with. How much are you willing to spend on food for your food budget, and how much are you planning to earn from it?
Another thing to consider is your opening hours—will it be all-day or specific meals like breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner? This will also determine what kind of food you’ll be serving. Given that, also determine how many hours will be allotted for preparation and cooking as well.
Availability of Ingredients
Consider the availability of ingredients and what recipes can be created:
- Market location: where will your restaurant be located? What are the available ingredients in that location?
- Ingredients’ seasonality: what are the seasonal ingredients in your area? Can you create special dishes with these seasonal ingredients? Also, use the ingredients that are in season all year round for dishes that will stay on the menu for a long time.
- Costs: how much are the ingredients in your area? What is the range of prices from supplier to supplier? Will it be better to locate nearby suppliers from another location?
Sourcing ingredients locally means it’s easier to ensure fresh and consistently good ingredients.
It’s important to account for the cost of ingredients to balance quality and profits. It’s covered in-depth in the module The Importance of Counting Costs but take note of the following:
- Set a target cost, usually 30 to 45% of the food selling price
- Check if the cost targets are met, and menu pricing is not too high, which might turn off potential diners
- Ensure every kitchen staff is cost-conscious and knows the basics of recipe costing
Menu Planning is Key to Keep
There are a lot of crucial factors to consider in menu planning. Your menu becomes the core identity of your restaurant. It will be the first thing that your diners remember and the driving force that will keep them coming back. So put a lot of thought into it and consider all the factors in order to execute it well. When the menu is well-planned, it’ll be easier to streamline processes to make your restaurant business run efficiently. Next, learn what it takes to have a balanced and accurate menu. Or, take a look at the other menu planning modules.
Congratulations, you’ve completed the Major Considerations in Planning Menus 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.
Congratulations, you’ve completed the Major Considerations in Planning Menus 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.