Keeping your menu fresh and current can be a challenge. Your regular customers always like their tried-and-true favorites, but you want to keep fresh and current items on your menu.
By doing a little research you will be able to tell trends from fads. A fad comes and goes fairly quickly, while a trend tends to stay around and become mainstream. Read trade publications, consumer magazines and promotions at large chain establishments.
There is no need to revamp your whole menu. By using “Specials” menu inserts, blackboard specials and weekly promotions there will be no need to revamp your entire menu. Once you see a trend you like, look around your local area for inspiration. If you want to add an ethnic flavor to a menu item, then find that ethnic eatery in your area and sample a few items to get a some ideas. It’s very easy to add an ethnic “inspired” item to your menu to give a sense of that type of cuisine. And always remember, you’re not an authentic ethnic restaurant, so there’s no need to try to be too authentic.
Use commercially-available products – such as marinades, prepared sauces and dressing – these can easily provide a very specific flavor profile. For example, it’s very simple to offer your current chicken wings as “Spicy Teriyaki Wing” and add a side of teriyaki dipping sauce to the plate.
Take advantage of the hamburger “extraordinaire”. Add creative twists to your burger menu by using a variety of breads such as focaccia or ciabatta, cheeses and flavored mayonnaise or dressings. Burgers are a very popular and profitable item on your menu. It just takes a little imagination. Why not try a different burger each day of the week as a “special”. Once again, no need to redo your menu and add additional cost to your overhead. Simply add it to your chalkboard each day.
Tweaking current menu items to take advantage of trends is an easy way to add a little creativity. One way is by offering diners a few new salad dressings. Maybe add fresh strawberries and blueberries to your salads. These fresh fruits are very healthy and add a great flair to any basic salad. Add fresh herbs to commercial vinaigrette dressings or olive oil and you have a new exotic item on your menu. Be creative, you’ll be surprised by the possibilities.
As a last note, remember to gain valuable insight into what works by asking both customers and peers for feedback. Future decisions will be much easier and your menu will remain very exciting!
Source: Business Solutions, Kraft Foodservice, 1/31/08
Photo by Simon Howden