Avoiding Pitfalls in Menu Development

Menu changes can provide two immediate benefits to your restaurant or bar: employee morale and customer interest.  Employees in the food and beverage industry tend to be creative.  Giving your bartenders, chefs and others on staff the opportunity to shape the food and drink menu is a sure way to increase employee morale.  Your employees will both feel valued and invested in the success of the business.  It’s a no brainer.  Solicit their input in the process.

If you want to keep loyal customers returning, you need to capture their interest with exciting new selections.  Retaining existing customers is the key to increasing your bottom line.  It is cheaper to retain a customer than attract a new one.  Again, it is a no-brainer.  Change it up at least once a year.  Quarterly is a good target for most restaurants and bars.  National chains have new menus about every six weeks.  This is no accident. It keeps customers coming back consistently and buying more at each visit.

To develop a new menu, here are some guidelines:

  1. Have a balanced approach.  Offer items that have wide appeal and ones that have superior profit margins.
  2. Don’t throw out the baby with the bath.  Keep some of your best selling items on the menu and selectively replace offerings.  A radical change can turn off customers.  You want it to be exciting but still have some of the old standbys available.
  3. Be sure to carefully price new menu items to be profitable and to have the necessary ingredients in your inventory orders.  Nothing loses sales and customer confidence than ordering the “hot” new menu item to find out they can’t get it because you’re all out.
  4. Be sure you test the recipe as much as possible.  You need both consistency in production and taste tester feedback to ensure your new menu is a success.
  5. Develop a menu where you can use ingredients in several recipes. It keeps food costs down and inventory fresh.

The ideal menu has 20-30 items. Resist the temptation to offer too many selections. You’ll overwhelm both the customers and your kitchen staff.