Today’s kitchen leader will create and implement a new menu on a weekly, seasonal, or annual basis. Regardless of whether the menu is for an established operation or a new restaurant, the task can be exciting, stimulating, and sometimes daunting. Here is a helpful outline and tips for rolling out a new menu.
Set aside adequate time for inspiration and for developing and revising dishes. Consider how the flavors, appearances, textures, and aromas of various ingredients will interact to produce food that tastes good, and combine menu selections that offer customers sufficient options to build an entire meal. Strive to create a “perfect mix” of choices that define the concept of the operation, while keeping in mind the expectations of the customer, and most importantly, the restaurant’s continuing profitability.
There is no secret recipe to writing a great menu; however, many successful chefs endeavor to create a balance between tradition and innovation, healthfulness and indulgence, price and popularity, and lightness and heaviness.
Schedule a menu tasting.
Prepare and present new dishes to a cross-section of staff, including sous chefs, F&B managers, servers, and your wine steward. Each may offer a different perspective on the dishes and/or the necessary approval to take the menu to the table.
Pretest new items. Complete or wholesale menu changes can place tremendous pressure on both the kitchen and the front of the house. It may be helpful to introduce one or two dishes as specials to see how well they are received before finalizing the menu. During this test period, the chef can train the cooks on the final preparation and presentation.
A standardized recipe is one that will produce a known quality, quantity, and consistency of food items every time. To ensure repeat customer satisfaction, sustain profitability, and control your purchasing, it is imperative to standardize. A standard recipe card should contain a detailed recipe; a color photo of the presentation; preparation time; pickup station in the kitchen; required cutlery; possible allergy or dietary notes; a glossary of terms; and a financial breakdown of ingredient costs, menu price, and food-cost percentage.
Consider profitability and practicality.
Launching a winning menu may involve more than appealing to your customers’ tastes. Factors such as product availability, labor cost, required equipment, and kitchen space often dictate what food items can be offered. The menu must be engineered to ensure financial success. Obtain a complete breakdown of costs and track profitability item by item.
Launch the menu.
Until your cooks become proficient with their stations, you should expect to encounter some challenges with your new menu. Good leadership and teaching are essential to inspiring the brigade to champion the program, work efficiently, and produce positive results. Similarly, the restaurant manager needs to motivate the service staff to sell the new menu; waitstaff should be well versed on every dish and able to answer guest questions without hesitation.
Creating new menus keeps our profession interesting and our patrons hungry. With a mindful approach, you can also ensure that they make money.