How to Choose Restaurant Menu Items
Creating a restaurant menu can be overwhelming. What dishes should you offer and what should you skip? The ideal restaurant menu offers a balance of unique dishes and old favorites. It also has the right food cost to maintain profits (ummm…which is extremely important) and can be easily reproduced in the kitchen during a busy dinner rush.
Avoid Food Fads on Your Restaurant Menu
Just like fashion, there are trends and fads in restaurant menu items.
Remember micro-brew beers of the 1990s? They were everywhere. Low carb menu items were all the rage during the Atkins Diet phase. Like those Co-Ed Naked t-shirts you wore in college and your favorite Kurt Cobain-esque flannel shirt, some food trends are really popular, but eventually fade away. While you want your restaurant menu to be exciting and trendy, you need to keep perennial favorites as well. Think of a burger and fries as the little black dress of your menu. It can be dressed up –perhaps a California burger with guacamole and pepper jack cheese- or served plain. Either way, it has staying power with most menus.
Restaurant Menu Items Need to Have Low Food Cost
In order to keep profits up and prices affordable for customers, each item on your restaurant menu should be priced to determine its food cost- the actual amount it costs you to make the dish.
Pricey ingredients (truffles, anyone?) will result in pricey menus. This doesn’t mean the food you order should be the cheapest available- quality is the most important aspect of creating menu items- but you need to balance high and low food costs to for a reasonable profit margin.
Keep Menu Dishes Easy to Prepare
Unless you are an ultra fine dining establishment, the menu items coming out of your restaurant kitchen need to be moved quickly and efficiently through the line. Any menu items that have fussy presentations can potentially bog down the kitchen staff during a lunch or dinner rush. This doesn’t mean food needs to be thrown onto plates lunch-lady style. You can still offer great presentations, but keep it simple.
Items on a Restaurant Menu Should be Versatile
Cross utilization of menu items keeps food spoilage down and allows you to use ingredients in more than one dish. For example, if you offer a homemade spinach and artichoke dip, try to offer other items that feature both spinach and artichokes. It is also a good idea to update your menu periodically and remove items that aren’t selling.
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