Designing your restaurant menu

What’s difficult about designing a menu?

Casual observers may think that a menu consists of all the items a chef is really good at making.

As with most things, you have to think of your audience first, in this case, customers.

Because someone can make something wonderfully, it doesn’t mean the customers will enjoy it. I came across a chef who made a crème caramel with beef dripping. He thought it was delicious, but his fellow chefs were less keen.

And the other thing, maybe the most important thing – is the profit margin.

No one wants a dish on the menu that doesn’t make a decent profit, no matter how delicious it is.

Thirdly, it has to be commercial. I worked with a really good cordon bleu cook once who couldn’t translate her food into portions for 20, 30 or more. Some items that work brilliantly for a dinner for six just don’t translate into a commercial kitchen environment.

So, a menu should consist of dishes the customers will enjoy, dishes that make a decent profit and dishes that work in a commercial environment.


What about specials – the clue is in the name – dishes that are really, really good and that no one else does?

On a menu of thirty items, you could maybe have two or three specials. These are highlighted, make a really good profit (otherwise, what’s the point?) and should knock your customers’ socks off.

Some places get the specials idea wrong. I came across a place last week that had thirty items and a third were specials. Customers get confused. They may think if it’s not special, it isn’t any good.

The specials board

Some places have a specials board that they stick unpopular items on or items that need selling as they are reaching the end of their life. People are not stupid. You might fool them once, but they will get wise to you. Specials should be just that: limited availability or seasonal items or chef’s specials that warrant special attention.

Does this make sense? Would you like me to help with your menu? Once you have your menu decided, I can optimise it to help you to make more profit.

Ping me an email or give me a call.


Have you been confused by a menu recently? Please let me know in the comments.