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Design, portion size, healthy options: What goes into creating the perfect menu

From how the ingredients are labelled and what's the first thing a customer sees on your menu, to how you control portion sizes - a lot goes into designing the perfect menu for your restaurant. 

Take a look at these 9 expert tips on creating that amazing menu your customers will love:

1. Always mention the major ingredients

Mention the major ingredients in each dish. If they fit, use ethnic names as they add an authentic flair to the menu description.

2. Put a lot of thought into menu design

Your menu is a reflection of your restaurant. Its fonts, colours and layout should match your restaurant’s concept, location, and theme.

iChef’s Kirsty and Matthew Krueger share the following ideas when designing a menu:

  • Create something that will excite your guests, involve your regulars, it gives them a sense of ownership
  • Use the specials board as your menu design drawing board

Another great tip for your restaurant business plan from Murray Wright of MurrayWright.com is to make sure your menus can be read and understood.

"With in-house printing, we can squeeze a lot on a A4 paper – but in the evening with lights low, and the more mature customer having forgotten their reading glasses, (or not wanting to show they need them) things get hard. Make sure the typeface is big enough. With descriptions, be careful of technical terms – if people don’t understand, they won’t ask and just order the steak or schnitzel. Ask yourself why the term is needed – is it to genuinely inform the customer or make myself feel good?"

3. Positioning items on a menu

Be smart when positioning items on your menu. Murray Wright and Associates shares that people tend to remember the first and last items more easily when they read a list.

So make sure to put the dishes you want to sell the most (highest $ margin) first and last on the lists.

Here are tips and tricks for making the most of your restaurant menu by BuzztimeBusiness:

4. Rate your dishes on how well they sold

Another great idea from iChef is to rate each of your dishes and keep a tally. This will give you the pros and cons to their suitability for the menu.

5. Have a speciality menu on special occasions or holidays

You can put together a menu unique to special events, holidays or occasions like Christmas or Easter. This will allow you to keep control over your costs and inventory while expanding your meal selection. 

6. Offer healthy options

Offer healthy options on your menu. Healthy food choices are becoming more important for customers’ restaurant choices, so make sure you have particularly healthy menu options available.

Offering meals with whole grains, vegetables, and fresh seafood on your menu is also another way to impress your customers with your varied range of dishes.

You don’t necessarily have to remove items from your menu. But you may want to consider adding low-fat, low-carb, low-calorie options such as lean meats, poultry and fish.

Smaller meal portions at lower prices are also a great way to cut the calories and the costs for your clients.

Vanessa Cullen of Forward Thinking Design has some great insights to share on healthy food offerings:

“Wholefoods plant-based clean eating is in and here to stay, even with non-vegan or non-vegetarian consumers who are just seeking lighter, healthier and/or more sophisticated meals. Leading futurists forecast this as the top trend in the immediate and foreseeable future of food and it is being embraced by both the best chefs globally and small start-up ‘fast’ food companies popping up ahead of the curve.”

Vanessa also shared a few examples of healthy dishes:

  • A vegan veggie burger or falafel wrap with option for gluten free bread
  • Bringing in a vegan cheese option which allows you to easily convert many pizza and Mexican-style mains
  • A tofu or lentil veg stir fry, hot pot, casserole or curry, etc.
  • Raw vegan desserts and non-dairy based ice creams can easily be bought in from a growing range of suppliers

Having more options like these will add variety to your menu and appeal to a wider array of customers.

7. Trim down your menu

Track the sales of every item in your menu and remove those that aren’t selling well. Use containers and ingredients efficiently to minimise food spoilage while keeping food costs under control.

8. Keep a balanced menu

Analyse each item on your menu to figure out your major food costs and how you can make cuts. Make sure your menu has a balance of both low and high-cost items. Adjust these to meet food cost targets. Avoid high food cost items on slow months as much as possible.

Here are some tips from HowCast on how to design a menu.

9. Control portion size

When it comes to targeted food costs, the small things add up. Portion size is one of them.

Make sure that you are portioning everything in your meals at the proper weight. This makes sure you are ordering the right quantities, keeping costs down, and reduces the need to raise prices and potentially turn your business into a really profitable one.

These tips was first published on alsco.com.au's  100+ more tips on restaurant planning strategies article. Alsco offers cost-efficient rental services that are tailored for your business. including first aid kit rentals and training services, linen and workwear, and hygiene systems. 

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