Do you know what a carte du jour is? Don’t be intimidated by that fancy name. It basically translates into menu; or so I think. With that in mind, there are a few questions you should ponder when constructing a menu. Who are my target patrons? What is their age range? What sort of income do they have? What do they want in a restaurant? The more you know about your target population, the better off you will be at creating a menu to meet their wishes. They can really help you figure out how you should format your menu, as well. What word choices should I make? How much color is too much color? Should it be loud and vibrant or muted and simple? We’re here to help you answer a few of those lingering questions and gear your menu towards your specific clientele. It’s always great to cater towards everyone, but many restaurants tend to gravitate towards certain segments of the population that will spend the most money at their establishments.
Think about your neighborhood’s demographics when thinking about creating a menu. What in the world does that have to do with formatting a menu? Well it might seem arbitrary, but it can help you decide what words you should or shouldn’t use to describe food. For example, someone who has been brought up in a wealthier household and has most likely had the privilege of going out to eat on a regular basis will probably know what an aioli is or what braised means. In comparison, someone who has rarely had the privilege of going out to eat to higher end establishments might not. When I was younger, we hardly ever went out to eat. It wasn’t because we didn’t have the money per se, but it was more because my dad was a conservative spender and would rather have home cooked meals. It took years of working in restaurants for me to become familiar with some of the more specialized cooking terms.
If you use certain ingredients that are uncommon, it would be wise to explain what that ingredient is, particularly if it is from somewhere outside your region. Nowadays, customers are also often particularly interested in finding out where their food is sourced, so it is wise to include it on the menu. People that aren’t really familiar with exotic ingredients or uncommon terms won’t want to feel ignorant when ordering. They might be afraid to ask what something is, especially when others at their table don’t have the same issue. I used to work in a restaurant that used Hon Shimeji mushrooms and I could never remember what they were called, so I made up my own name for them. I called them “family mushrooms.” I would then describe them to the customers. A description of how items, like those particular mushrooms, taste like could be very helpful to the guest. Another good idea would be to have the wait staff sample all the dishes before ever serving a guest. That way they can explain and answer any questions the customers may have. Customers love when their server makes suggestions and speaks knowledgeably about the items on the menu.
You should also think about the presentation of the menu. What theme are you trying to convey? Is your restaurant homey-like atmosphere or a loud, boisterous and fun place? Should you include the logo if you have one? No matter what you decide as far as the color scheme, items, or pricing, you should keep it consistent throughout and theme-oriented. Also, make it easy to update and change as needed. If you tend to change your menu often, you will want to consider a cost effective and efficient way to do so. With technology, it is relatively easy to create one on your computer and print it at a moment’s notice. The question here is: on what kind of paper will it be printed? Is it something that can be laminated and inserted into a cover, or will you need to have it sent out to a printing company? The more you plan ahead, the better off you’ll be when altering your menu in the future.
As with any great novel, you want the reader to be able to transcend into a different time or place while turning through the pages. In this case, you want your customers to experience and create a taste for the items on the menu just by reading through it. There are descriptive words, and then are words that create an image in the mind’s eye and taste buds. You could use sweet or salty, even seasoned, but sometimes, those just don’t cut it. Use words that can be felt and tasted. For example, something with a sweet taste may be described as candied or glazed. Instead of using tender and/or juicy, think about “succulent.” The word itself makes your mouth water. Some other choice terms you could use are: dash, a hint of, or infused. It’s ok to grab a dictionary or thesaurus; the English language has a variety of words available to describe something. Have fun when writing your menu! Also, consider consulting with your cooks and servers who will be working hands-on with the items.
There are many factors that go into writing a menu. Take your time because it may be a determining factor in what your customer’s order, which could subsequently be the reason they keep coming back for more.