10 Things to Remember When Writing A Daily Menu
Staying competitive in the restaurant business is becoming tough, especially if your customers expect new and exciting dishes from your kitchen on a consistent basis. Just like a writer coming up with a new chapter for his story, coming up with new menu items can at times become a daunting task, with even seasoned chefs having "writers block" from time to time.
[br][clear] Whether your a veteran at the game or you're just starting out, here are 10 things for you to remember when writing your next menu.
[br][clear] 1. Keep it Seasonal/Local
[br][clear] Most patrons at these types of restaurants are keen on food trends and support places that hold these values also. You can work a little out of season, but most people now want a taste of what the local bounty has to offer.
[br][clear] 2. Be daring
[br][clear] You can get instant feedback and tweak dishes on a daily basis so this is your chance to be a creative chef. That doesn’t mean just throw stuff together and use the paying customer as a guinea pig. A quick reference for new chefs is Culinary Artistry by James Beard Award winning authors Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page. You can look up a food item and it gives you a list of flavors that match with that product, it is a great reference guide. Always let your staff taste the dish and give their thoughts.
[br][clear] 3. Manipulate Prices
[br][clear] If a product only has two days left, drop the price to encourage sales. Be careful not to drop it too low to raise suspicion. But in comparison to similar dishes on your menu, or other restaurant menu prices, make the cost appealing for a customer to choose it over its main competition. If someone walks in the door wanting steak, the lower price doesn’t matter, but if someone is choosing between two types of fish, a lower price can help sway them in the right direction.
[br][clear] 4. Interface With Customers to See Reactions to Your Food
[br][clear] If you work in a closed kitchen and can’t get out ask your servers or have a server assistant notice what people enjoy or what they are not liking. They can report to you at the end of a shift or at certain intervals. Otherwise get as much feedback as you can from your customers especially regulars, people like talking about their opinions of things and if you have some real food lovers you might be surprised at what they know and can teach. Always be humble.
[br][clear] 5. Tweak, Tweak, Tweak
[br][clear] Always look for a way to better your dish. Just because it hits the menu and sells doesn’t mean it is the best it can be. Analyze, but don’t overdo it. I know this sounds confusing but be sure what you add to a dish makes sense and isn’t just for decoration.
[br][clear] 6. Buddy Up With Food Reps
[br][clear] You have flexibility to buy a wide array of products so you should have purveyors lining up to sell to you. See what they have deals on for that week and ask for samples of new products, reps love to talk about and push their new items. A daily menu really allows you to buy food when it is at its best prices. You can take risks with adventurous products, but if you do order in smaller amounts to ensure you use all of it. Selling out is the name of the game.
[br][clear] 7. Tasting Menus
[br][clear] This is a perfect way to use product on hand and to be creative. Every chef wants to use his skills on different foods. This is a way to stay inventive and use things you already have on your menu but in different, unique ways. A great daily tasting menu can create a buzz in the food lover community and is great for word of mouth advertising.
[br][clear] 8. Quality of Staff (Both Front and Back)
[br][clear] It’s great to conceptualize an eye popping dish, but can your team pull it off? Can my cooks make that happen or can my servers deliver it without compromising the look of the dish? This can be the most overlooked thing that ends up being very detrimental because speed and quality of product are two important things.
[br][clear] 9. Use Everything of Everything
[br][clear] Do an amuse bouche to use up the pound of two ounce fish scraps that were otherwise worthless. Poach them in a saffron broth and turn them into fishcakes with a lime aioli and put it on a house made sesame cracker to tantalize the taste buds of your customers. The first thing world famous chef Jacque Pepin does when he goes to his restaurants is check the trashcans to see what his chefs are wasting.
[br][clear] 10. Find Your Sell Spot on the Menu.
[br][clear] There is a spot on every menu design where people’s eyes naturally land and they are most likely to order from that spot. If you don’t have computer savvy find someone from your front of the house that should be able to run analytics to find the spot and help maximize food cost. If no one has that knowledge simply ask your staff members, friends and family to look at your menu and ask them where their eyes are drawn to on the menu. You will be surprised how many people point out the same exact spot.
[br][clear] Provided by Jason Paul Rice, who has been an industry professional in a wide variety of restaurants for the past 20 years and currently works at Fox Chapel Golf Club in Pittsburgh, PA.