Creating a menu can be an arduous task for both chefs, who have to coordinate the creation of menu items, and front-of-house staff, who have to sell menu items. There are a few strategies a restaurant can deploy that will ease communication issues on both ends as well as add value to your customer experience.
All main ingredients need to be listed on the menu, with very few exceptions. If you order a sandwich written on the menu as, “turkey, bacon, and cheese,” it should not come with caramelized onions and horseradish on it as well. Knowing what you’re getting is important to customers and in many cases will prevent dishes returning to the kitchen because the customer at table 4 doesn’t like tomatoes (and didn’t know their plate had them) or the customer at table 12 is allergic to strawberries. When creating a menu it’s important to keep in mind that customers don’t usually know if they’re going to like what they order, so giving them the knowledge to order according to their taste and preferences can save both front- and back-of-house staff the agony of fixing or remaking food.
There are a few exceptions to this rule: there is no need to say that something has salt in it, or that a soup has broth, or that a pasta dish has butter. Unless a customer makes a special request for no salt or dairy-free, these few specific ingredients are a given and don’t need inclusion in the menu’s text. However, if a pasta dish seems like it might be vegan, it may be pertinent to mention butter to avoid confusion or a potentially dissatisfied customer.
Another important aspect of the menu is the order in which it presents the dishes. Appetizers should come before entrees, entrees before desserts. Within those categories, the first options should be the ones you’re looking to sell most often. Customers read the menu top to bottom, left to right, so place the items with higher profit margin at the top left to increase sales. There will be a few exceptions based on commonly ordered items such as burgers and steak entrees, but this strategy is useful for improving profit.
In the same vein as order, quantity is another thing to keep in mind. Customers don’t want or need 20 different entree options. Stick to a smaller number (e.g., eight to 12) that can be executed perfectly every time. A restaurant with a more modest but consistently delicious selection of food will always outperform a restaurant with an extensive menu of mediocre or inconsistent food. Fewer items mean less food to stock, and less food in the kitchen inevitably means less waste, all of which lead to more profit.
The final tip is to proofread. That sounds like a no-brainer but is extraordinarily essential. Keep capitalization and descriptions consistent, for example:
• Pasta Bolognese — Rigatoni, beef, pork, tomatoes, basil
• Pasta arrabiata — spaghetti with crushed tomato sauce and chili peppers, topped with Parmesan
These two menu items should be written in a style consistent with each other to keep the menu looking neat and professional. It may seem trivial, but a menu with inconsistent styles reflects poorly on the restaurant and the food. Proofreading and correcting these differences will improve customers’ first impressions and more likely result in repeat customers. Similarly, make sure that your menu descriptions are accurate. If the pasta listed in the description is rigatoni, receiving a plate full of spaghetti may result in confusion and dissatisfaction.
Menu creation and presentation are among the most critical aspects of starting and running a restaurant. Your menu is how you sell your product, and if it is not clear in its offerings or is an editor’s worst nightmare, customers are going to think twice about returning. When you take the time to proofread and ensure accuracy, your menu will be an asset that boosts profit and keeps customers coming back.