The elements of Menu Planning are like baking a cake. It needs to be precise to produce the correct results.

The restaurant industry is about to reopen after a prolonged, painful period of enforced closure. Those restaurants that reopen will need to be lean, clean and ruthlessly efficient to keep a healthy bottom line. Food waste has been an ongoing conversation in the industry for decades and it is to a very great extent driven by poor menu planning. In a time when every single cent will count, it has never been more urgent to get it right.

Food waste originates in Menu Planning.

Menu planning & Design have so many implications for disaster in a business that it should come with a major health warning. It is rarely given the gravitas or time it deserves.

Menus have a direct impact on the following

  1. Labour Costs
    • Skills level required
    • Time –prep/ service  
  2. Overhead/ Utility Costs
    • Water
    • Gas
    • Electricity
  3. Stock Levels
    • Over purchasing
    • Wrong products
    • Poor Stock Rotation
    • Not cross referencing ingredients across a number of dishes.
    • Over stocking
  4. Prepping
    • Time
    • Space
    • Skills
    • Food waste
  5. Service
    • Plate size, shape, weight, practicality
    • Speed  
  • Food Waste/ Costs
    • Final presentation of dish i.e. too much/ wrong garnish, portion too big, guest expectation versus reality.
    • Acceptance of plate waste as normal.
    • Preparation Waste
    • Storage waste.
  • Revenue
    • Inaccurate costing and pricing
    • Forgetting to add VAT
    • Incorrect VAT rates
    • Upselling ‘wrong’ dishes.
    • Forgetting that customers do not ‘read’ menus, they scan.
    • Design overkill.
    • Font wrong size/hard to read
    • Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera.  


Menu Planning takes time, takes the entire team, takes patience and cooperation.

  1. One Team: Remember that there is one team working towards the same goal. The kitchen and dining staff are not two separate entities who meet at the pass Involve the entire team in planning a new menu. This includes key staff from front of house.
  2. Sales Analysis: Do not revise a menu based on hunches. It must be based on at least a six month sales analysis and current market conditions.
  3. Customer: Identify your customer base. Has it changed in last few months. Will your post Covid menu need to be somewhat or radically changed?
  4. Accurate Recipes: Do not cost a menu based on guessing. It must be costed and priced using current invoices and accurate recipes.
  5. Testing & Tasting: Involve the team in testing and tasting. Be open to constructive feedback for tweaking and perfecting dishes.
  6. Dish Presentation: Do not allow anyone to go on a solo run regarding new presentation of dishes. This is a team conversation.
  7. Dish Journey: Follow the dish through its logical path from preparation to service or take out. What are the implications for
    • Suppliers
    • Stock Control
    • Quality
    • Kitchen Flow
    • Preparation
    • Skills required
    • Space and time required
    • Service – Presentation, plate/dish; Speed, Ease of Service.
  8.  Menu Design
    • Be involved in the design of the menu.
    • Work closely with designer to identify what it is you need to sell.
    • Remember guests spend ‘109 seconds scanning’ your menu. It needs to have impact.  
    • Try to avoid patronising customers by over describing or using unfamiliar words.
    • Every time a customer has to ‘ask the server’ it is costing your business money.  

The menu is your most valuable marketing tool. Keeping it short, concise, understandable.