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Startup 15 Sep 2014

Menu Planning: A Key to Restaurant Success

Menu planning generally appears last in the order list of priority work, but for a smart restaurateur this should be the first step.

By Nusra Deputy Features Editor

By Invite: Vinayak Gupta, Partner, TAWAK

whenever a new restaurant opens up, it is judged by both customers and critics on various parameters. Ranging from the aesthetics to the service, there are many things a restaurant is judged upon, but nothing is more important than its food!

Many people give a lot of importance to the décor and the ambience like the plushness of the cushion you are sitting on, the quality of the menu, and the smile on the server’s face while serving food to customers. While all these are important points to consider before planning a restaurant, what matters most to a customer is the restaurant’s offerings i.e., the menu.

A customer walks in a restaurant for the quality of food being served. You may have the most soothing ambience and the coziest couch, but if your food is not talked about, then you will be out of business soon. Hence, effective menu planning is the key to a successful restaurant.

Value for Money
Menu planning generally appears last in the order list of priority work, but for a smart restaurateur this should be the first step. Depending on the demographics of your chosen location, the menu is the first thing you should finalize upon as it will help you judiciously plan your space, storage and equipment, skill set of required labor and the resulting wage bills and your utility costs. That is a big cost saver.

Location
Right from the initial stage, when one starts scouting for suitable location, always keep in mind the kind of food or format you plan to follow. For example, if the location is in an up-market food hub with plenty of affluent customer base, then the menu should have a variety of exotic ingredients and dishes for a relaxed laid back experience. On the other hand, if the restaurant is in or around a commercial area, the menu has to be designed for fast and efficient service. The location determines the clientele and hence dictates the pricing to suit customers’ expectations.

Ingredients
Location also plays a big role in the availability of quality ingredients round the year and hence dictates what can or can’t be included in the menu. For example, if you are in a land-locked area, then a huge seafood based menu may not be a great idea. One should always plan an ambitious menu, only if he is sure about availability of quality ingredients throughout the year. Effective menu planning helps bring down the inventory and reduces the amount of food wastages. It is highly advisable to utilize local produce as much as possible, as it is more cost effective and also guarantees freshness.

Service Area

While planning a menu, it is imperative to consider the available service area for various utilities. The menu should be designed, considering the available space to achieve smooth operations. Having too much in the menu and the kitchen will not help you cope better in future. On the other hand, having too little will not help you attract enough revenue to achieve profits.

For example, it is not advisable to open an Italian restaurant if you do not have space for an authentic wood-fired pizza oven. Another important aspect is the availability of skilled staff. There is no use planning a ten course plated meal if you do not have enough area or skilled staff to pull it off.

With the boom in the F&B industry and increase in the surplus income of middle class, there are new restaurants coming up almost every day, but the supply of skilled labor is limited. As a result, the cost of labor has gone up pushing up the products’ prices for customers to pay.

Pricing
Maintaining a well-balance of is crucial. If prices are too high, people will not turn up, and if prices are too low, profits will not turn up. Hence, there are various things to consider while pricing your menu like demographics you are serving, your past menu (if you are updating the menu), your competitors’ menu, inputs from your guests and service staff, and a well researched data of the local market.

In a restaurateur’s slang, a menu generally has various items – the plow horses (low margin, high demand), the stars (high margins, high popularity), and the dogs (low margin low popularity). Managing these efficiently will define whether a restaurant thrives or not.

Lastly, menus are generally driven by customer demand. With the world becoming a global village, people are travelling abroad and experiencing new cuisines and service standards. When they come back home, they expect the same. This calls for owners and chefs to experiment and innovate to showcase their offerings and make them stand apart from the rest of the crowd. With new concepts and cuisines being launched in the market every day, one should always be aware of the latest trends and should adapt accordingly.

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