The Case for a Limited Menu

menu

Watch any restaurant make-over reality show and one of thee first things that you are going to notice is that the menu is generally not only re-vamped but it is modified to be much more limited. If you go to a restaurant that is really doing well, no matter whether it is a diner or an elegant dining room, you’ll probably find that the menu is very limited. It may change daily but each day’s offerings will be minimal.

Large, corporate owned restaurants can afford to have ten page menus. Their finances and budgets are handled differently and, because they are working to please a wide variety of palates from across the nation (and sometimes around the world), they have a different way of doing things.

If you have a small restaurant and you are trying to compete with a corporate eatery you should just stop. A small restaurant needs to keep the menu limited in order to control the profit and the quality of your dishes. Here are some ways to get the best menu possible while keeping it limited.

Talk to Your Chef

Restaurant owners get in the habit of being the boss. Sometimes this means that they ignore one of the best  resources they have — the chef.

Not only has your chef been trained but he is passionate (hopefully) about food. He knows what his strengths, weaknesses, and interests are. If he isn’t sharing that information with you you are not making the profit you could be. A chef that has the freedom to create, and who knows his ideas are valued, is more likely to bring his passion and creativity to the plate. Ultimately that means profit.

Ask him what doesn’t do well, what he feels is not up to his standard, and what he’d change about the menu. Take notes and consider what he says. Ask him what doesn’t do well, what he feels is not up to his standard, and what he’d change about the menu. Take notes and consider what he says.

If he is passionate about Asian fusion and you are having him cook nothing but burgers then there is a problem. either you need to come up with a menu that both of you can be excited about or  you need to consider parting ways.

Talk to Your Customers

What are your customers buying? What do they like?

You can’t base your menu totally on what your customers say but when you compare their answers to the notes you took when you talked with the chef you should be able to get a good idea of what they are looking for.

Does You Menu Make Sense?

If you have an Italian restaurant you don’t need to have fried fish and chips on your menu. If you have an American Bistro it doesn’t need to serve Korean Bulgogi. Try to come up with three or four appetizers, two soups, five mains, and three desserts that fit in to the theme of your eatery. Even if you are an eclectic restaurant there is going to be some sort of theme.

Concentrate and Be Memorable

Concentrate on creating memorable dishes around your common theme and, even better, a common ingredients. Focus on creating the perfect plate rather than adding more  menu items. Your customers will be able to recommend you more easily because the can rattle off the name of a dish or two that they love rather than having to say that you do pretty good food.

Word of mouth is more valuable advertising than any other type. Make it easy.

A Limited Menu Means a Peaceful Kitchen

Finally, limiting your menu will take a lot off pressure off of your staff. Your kitchen staff will be able to plate more efficiently and your servers will have fewer problems answering questions. Having a limited menu may be the one thing that turns your business around.

photo credit: zoetnet via photopin cc

- Marye Audet

Marye Audet is an author, freelance writer, and editor. Cooking, baking, and recipe development have been a major part of her life since she baked her first loaf of bread at age 13. Luckily, with a husband, eight children, a son in law, and three grandchildren she has enough test-tasters to handle the steady stream of experiments that come from her kitchen.

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