By: Walter Zuromski, CEC, CCE, BS – President & Culinary Director –
I think it is important for restaurants to understand there are several components to a menu. First and foremost a menu is something a restaurant can build their business model around. It has to provide flavor in order to bring your restaurant to life. It takes more than just a long list of food selections. You require standards and training in order for your menu to lead to profitability.
Often restaurants are too close to their own menus to be effective in implementing change. Many also work on the assumption that if they make changes their regulars will not be happy. I looked at a popular trendy bar and restaurant in Rhode Island that was located in an historical building. They had a good comfort level with their regulars yet they recognized the need for change. They wanted to ensure their regulars were kept happy while becoming more attractive to new customers. Taking into consideration their location and business model it made sense to make a move towards the gastropub experience. This business model would maintain the casual aspects of food their regulars had come to love while offering a more sophisticated selection that provided more flavour to new guests.
In this type of situation a restaurant will require a number of standards be set in order to be successful. First of all they required a menu that would allow all members of the team to execute the menu as well as the Chef. Therefore once the menu was created and the flavors were established, the recipes had to be developed and standardized. This allowed the team to follow instructions and prepare the food in order to maintain a level of quality that would remain consistent. In order to ensure this was possible documents were prepared for the kitchen such as production charts, inventory lists and of course recipes. Documentation is key to keep all staff at the same level and allows for consistent training for each new team member.
Before the new menu is introduced staff must be trained in the new direction and standards set in the kitchen with equipment orientation as well as standards regarding plating and presentation. All of these elements are factors in the success of the menu. In this case the menu was introduced and was an instant success. Staff knew their way around the kitchen equipment and thorough training and mentoring in the new standards allowed them to maintain consistency in preparation and flavour pleasing both their regulars and new customers. They are seeing an increase in volume of sales and have gone from a basic bar menu to a full menu featuring appetizers, entrees and desserts.
A completely new restaurant requires a different approach. I worked with a couple who wanted to open up a bake shop featuring the wife’s cupcakes. There was no doubt in their minds that the cupcakes were a good enough base for their business however they knew they needed something more to draw in customers. They did some research on their own and found that the bake and burger idea was hot and was the perfect concept for them.
I approached this project by helping to take their very viable concept and bring it to life. They needed a menu that was realistic to blend bakery and restaurant together and burgers were ideal for their excellent location. They also required a complete restaurant design that allowed for logical flow for both customers as well as staff.
In hand with menu creation I also had to provide coaching in strategies and develop a system that would allow them to succeed. Without restaurant experience they required a very detailed follow up to the menu development that provided them with the standards to run their business in a turn key fashion. This would allow them to learn as they worked. A customized standards operations manual allowed them to take on their new business with the tools they needed to execute their excellent concept and sell it to their customers. A floor plan was prepared, advice was provided for the equipment required and an overall strategy was developed for their business model. They now have a facility that offers not only outstanding food but a very viable business that is proving to be very lucrative.
Whether you are looking to improve your current menu or are starting up a brand new business, your menu requires standards and training in order for it to succeed.