Menu Development


What is a menu? Comes from French, Meaning “a detailed list”


Purpose of the Menu

1. Inform guests of items available and price

2. Inform employees of items to prepare and purchase

3. MENU is primary control tool for the operation

4. Menu is critical to communicating and selling items to the customer


The menu is a mission statement; it defines an operation’s concept and communicates that concept to guests.

Menu is one of the single biggest influences on an operation’s development of a loyal guest base and positive return on its investment.


Menu Planning Factors

Menu planning is initial control point of the operation

The Menu is the most important part of the Restaurant concept.

Guests come to restaurants for a pleasurable dining experience and the MENU is the MOST important ingredient in this experience.

Restaurants & Institutions magazine state that restaurant patrons consider Food Quality the most important factor when choosing a Restaurant.

Menu affects, and is affected by, the operation’s design and layout, equipment requirements, and labor needs.

The success of menu planning determines the success of other basic operating activities.


Major challenges for restaurant operator:

1. Providing tastier presentations

2. Offering healthier food options

3. Pleasing savvy customers

4. Creating flavors that are nothing short of Extraordinary


Menu Planning Objectives

Menu must meet or exceed guest’s expectations.

Reflect tastes and preferences of guests

Menu must attain marketing objectives.

What guest wants location, prices, and times?

Must bring guests back for more visits

Menu must meet quality standards

Quality and nutrition go hand in hand

Flavor, shapes, textures, palatability, flair

Menu must be cost-effective

Menu must be accurate

Truth in menu

Adhere to FDA guidelines on terminology


Menu should blend old with new.

Balance between traditional and innovative

Give new menu items to give guests fresh perspective

Staff must be able to produce and serve items on the menu

Menu Planning Objectives

Menu must be based on amount and types of production and service equipment available.

Menu must be appropriate for operation’s facilities.


Types of Menus

Fixed menu – does not change from day to day (static)

Cycle menu – changes daily for certain number of days (hospitals, schools, colleges, B&I)

A la carte – prices for each food item on individual basis (most common in restaurants)

Table d'hôte– (fixed price or prix-fixe) offers entire meal with several courses at one price

California menu – guest may order any item from the menu at any time of the day


Factors Influencing Menu Planning

*Customer Satisfaction

*Management Decisions

Factors Influencing Menu Planning – Customer Satisfaction

 Food preferences/habits


Aesthetic factors

Socioeconomic factors

Factors Influencing Menu Planning – Management Decisions

Food Cost

Menu Pricing

Production capacity

Type of service

Food availability

Menu Rationalization- simplified menu for operational efficiency (using same food items for multiple items) to streamline purchasing, receiving, and storage


Chefs or cooks capability to produce the quality and quantity of food items is a basic consideration

Use of standardized recipes helps ensure


Proper equipment must be installed in an efficient layout to produce menu items

Menu items selected to avoid overuse of one piece of equipment


Ingredient items must be easily available

A constant, reliable source of supply must be maintained

Must take advantage of items that are in season to help keep costs low


Price is major factor in menu selection

Customer sensitive to price-value relationships

Value created by what you provide and what you charge for it


Factors Influencing Menu Planning

Factors which influence value perception:

1. Portion size

2. Quality of product

3. Reliability or consistency of product

4. Uniqueness of product

5. Service convenience & speed of service

6. Comfort level

7. Reliability or consistency of service

Factors Influencing Menu Planning

Selling price determination questions:

1. What is competition charging?

2. What is item food cost?

3. What is labor cost to produce?

4. What other costs must be covered?

5. What profit is expected?

6. What is contribution margin of the item?

Factors Influencing Menu Planning

Menu Pricing Strategies:

Determine competition pricing and price accordingly

Factor method based on food cost

Factors Influencing Menu Planning

Menu Pricing Strategies:

Use odd-cents increments for digits to right of decimal point

For items with drastically increases in price, place in less noticeable spot on menu

Try reducing portions before raising prices

NEVER increase price of all menu items at same time

Put “market -price” on items that fluctuate widely in price


Factors Influencing Menu Planning

Nutritional Value:

Customers becoming more and more concerned about nutritional value of foods.

Concerned about total high fat content cholesterol, sodium and calories

Should offer meatless main dishes or vegetarian selections

15% customers want vegetarian fare, 20% order meatless dishes


Factors Influencing Menu Planning

Contribution Margin: (CM)

Difference between sales and the cost of the item is the CM

Want to put items on menu that bring a relatively high CM in order to cover the fixed and variable costs as well as profit margin


Factors Influencing Menu Planning

Flavor of menu items:

Americans are embracing ethnic cuisines

Flavor is the key tool to differentiate one restaurant from another

Terms like marinated and smoked being featured more on menus


Factors Influencing Menu Planning

Flavor of menu items:

FLAVOR is the sum of sensory experiences people have when food enters the mouth

Total flavor perception is combination or aroma, taste, texture, sight, sound – all involving the senses.

Factors Influencing Menu Planning

Accuracy in Menu:

Must be accurate and truthful when describing dishes on the menu

Butter must be butter, fresh cream must be fresh cream, etc.

Be careful of nutritional terms used- must show how nutritional data was derived


Factors Influencing Menu Planning

Menu Items:

Items selected will depend on type of restaurant

Number and range of items critical to overall success

Must keep abreast of trends, new items

Menu Planning by Meal Periods

Breakfast– most profitable meal period.

Lunch – speed of service main objective

Dinner – most important meal of day – promote value


Menu Pattern (non-commercial)

Format as to how many and what type of food items will be included on the menu by meal period


1 Soup or juice

1 Sandwich

3 Entrées

2 Starches

2 Vegetables

3 Salads

3 Breads

2 Desserts

Food Categories on Menus

(Commercial Operations)

1. Appetizers & Soups

2. Salads

3. Entrees (may come with 2-3 sides like potatoes, vegetables, rolls, etc)

4. Desserts

5. Alcoholic Beverages

The Planning Sequence

Begin with Entrees

Keep in mind types of entrees offered and their cost

Consider production methods-baked, broiled, sautéed, fried, grilled, poached)

Consider adherence to concept/these and atmosphere of operation

Usually in table-service should be at least 8 entrees – one or two major meat, pasta, poultry, seafood, and fish categories


Determine complementary items for remaining categories

Common to select appetizers/soups – 6-8 adequate, but not filling as to detract from entree

Follow with starch and vegetables

Finalize with salads – Caesar salad is top main—dish salad choice on menu with Cobb salad next

Then desserts – can boost average check and profit of operation; include selection of fruits, pies, cakes, ices, pastries


Tools Needs for Planning

Menu planning forms

Recipe files

Reasonability lists

Items in inventory

Food preference analysis

Menu Design Factors

Begin with the needs and expectation of guests.

The menu presents an image of the operation; its appearance must be in harmony with the image the restaurant wants to project.

Menu design and layout called the silent salesperson of the restaurant.

Guests are influenced by menu’s visual cues – design and layout, artwork, type styles

Provide menus which list items and prices (Usually with brief description of major items, easy to read and understand)

Information that is printed on menu is called “menu copy” It communicates to guests what the restaurant has to offer

Menu MUST be legible and easy to read

Menu Cover is a symbol of the restaurant’s identity

Type style, size, color, style and background affects it legibility

Types of material on which menu is printed should be in keeping with restaurant’s image Color gives menu variety

Use type 10-12 for menu listings, size 18 for headings

Vary type size to prevent monotony

Menu heading should be in capital letters and bolded with larger type

Lowercase easier to read Words such as or, the, a, in, and, with are usually not capitalized

Additional emphasis by drawing box or border around menu items

Menu items are often put in large, bold caps to stand out, and lowercase type used for descriptive material below the name of the item.


Menu Design Factors – Other issues to consider

a. A good menu “grabs” the customer and attracts them to the items

b. Slightly more than 52% of space on printed page has print on it, 47% of space is margins

c. Line length should be 3-4 inches (Too wide causes reader to lose place)

d. First and last items in a column are seen first and best. (Put items on menu in these areas if want to sell)

Readers tend to skip items

e. Don’t arrange items in columns with highest to lowest prices

f. Eye focus goes to right or center of page or to upper right hand corner and then counters clockwise to right bottom

g. Use of black on white read 42% more rapidly than white on gray

h. Too much color can distract attention from menu

i. A heavy paper, cover stock best for menu covers

j. May laminate to resist soil

k. Menu cover shape and form helps create interest and sales appeal

l. Restaurant’s address, telephone number and hours of operation should appear on the menu

m. Replace menu rather than scratch out old prices, or indicate “market price”

n. Get rid of out-of-date, dirty, worn, unattractive menus

o. Use odd cents pricing – $7.29

p. The picture menu good merchandising tool, in that people eat with their eyes


Menu Trends Smaller portions

– Guests want a sampling of foods in smaller portions

– Finger food selections, half portions, and smaller desserts

– Known as “grazing” or “modular cuisine”

– Can overwork kitchen at peak times

– Slow table turnover (takes longer to serve guests)

– Increased labor costs (Small, hand prepared items with elaborate plate presentation)


Menu Trends Regionalized Menus

- Regional foods based on location of restaurant

- Driven by competition from local independent restaurants

- Goal is to attempt to position operation as a neighborhood or community eating and drinking establishment

- Need to consider how menu will affect equipment needs

- How does producing items affect flow of other products in kitchen?

- Will sales of regional items take away from sales of other traditional items?

- Staff may need additional training on new items

Menu Trends Lighter, Healthier Foods

- Want smaller portion of fresh and light foods

- Some operators present nutritional information on menus


Menu Trends Ethnic and Exotic Foods

- Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai

- Adding items can result in sanitation and quality problems if staff not properly trained


Changing the Menu

Menu must change based on external and internal factors.

Internal: Meal pattern, concept & theme, operational system, menu mix.

External: Guest demands, economic factors, competition, supply levels, industry trends.


Changing the Menu, changes may raise food and labor costs.

Production and service staff may lack necessary skills to produce and service items.

Existing menu mix will change with menu items changes.


May need to change menu based on gross margins for items or lack of popularity (Stars, dogs, plow horses, puzzles)

(Popularity and profitability)


Menu development is never finished.

To remain competitive in the market, Menu Development must be an ongoing process!

Questions to Ponder?

1. How would you prioritize the considerations in menu planning for your restaurant?

2. To achieve maximum efficiency in your kitchen, who should be involved in menu planning?

3. Discuss how the equipment and menu must harmonize to create a smooth operation.

4. How much should operators become involved with the nutritional content of foods served?

5. Describe how your menu will look when presented to guests? Why?

6. What will your restaurant food cost percentage be? How will you achieve it?