By Claire Morgan, Contributor
To the outside world, being a restaurant owner sounds very glamorous -- you own a place where people come to eat and have a great time. But we all know that owning and operating a restaurant takes a lot of grit, determination, hard work and sometimes a little luck. And that’s just to stay afloat.
If you want your restaurant to really flourish, you need to get guests to visit your business and spend their money on your dishes. And that starts with creating a perfect menu that will have guests dying to come back. Unfortunately, many restaurateurs tend to make mistakes regarding food. Here are five tips for building the perfect menu.
1. Don't Have Too Many Dishes
This is a classic trap that restaurateurs fall into. In hope to satisfy everyone, they create a large menu with too many dishes. Even though having a wide variety of choices is fine, creating an extensive menu can make your guests feel confused and indecisive.
Instead, opt for a few dishes that are delicious, and your kitchen staff can prepare perfectly. Not only will it help your guests make decisions faster, but meal quality will improve.
A limited menu also allows your guests to associate your restaurant with a certain type of cuisine. Having pizzas, burgers, and falafels may sound tantalizing but, in reality, dilutes your theme (unless those food are central to your theme). Because let’s be honest: every restaurant that has too many options automatically comes across as unreliable. And understandably so. Quality suffers when your chefs have to try to perfect dozens of dishes.
2. Consider Your Guests’ Feedback
The biggest mistake you can make is to ignore your guests’ opinions and feedback because after all, they’re the ones who decide with their wallets. In the age of social media, it’s easier than ever to leave a scathing review, so instead of engaging with petty fights with people online, try to consider their feedback and change your offer so everyone will be happy.
If more than one person complained about your food, maybe it’s time to actually implement some changes and improve your menu. In case you want to be extra considerate, create a feedback form and give it to your guests. A lot of them will be happy that you actually care about their opinion. If you own a website, you can even create a form online or through email.
3. Innovate Your Restaurant’s Menu
Innovation makes the world go round, so there’s no wonder that same can be applied to restaurant menus.
If you want people to be attracted to your offer, you need to create an elaborate menu that will make people interested. Being innovative isn’t about being outlandish or overly eccentric, but rather about giving people what they truly need. The best way to find out is to ask directly or to research your local area and see what’s missing.
If your neighborhood has too many burger shops, opening another one may work, but it won’t bring anything new to the table. On the other hand, providing something unique and new can create buzz and attract new customers. Opening a restaurant that serves exquisite fiddlehead dishes can be a welcome change especially if other restaurants serve something completely different. But, if you decide to opt for something unusual, make sure that your portions are rich so people will feel satisfied and full.
4. Don’t Promise What You Can’t Deliver
There’s nothing more disheartening to a guest than going to your restaurant, browsing the menu, deciding on a dish, and then being told it’s 86’d because an ingredient isn’t available. These types of occurrences can only have a negative impact on your business as people will look at your restaurant as being unreliable. While everyone can misjudge inventory needs once in a great while, if you’re running out of ingredients regularly then you have a serious inventory issue.
As an alternative, serve only dishes that you can easily prepare without a long list of complicated or hard-to-get ingredients. Instead, look locally. Not only will using locally-sourced ingredients save you a lot of money, but you can promote your business as supporting local farmers and other small businesses. It’s a win-win.
5. Offer Alt-Diet Menu Options
No matter what you think about alternative diets like vegan, keto or gluten-free, the fact is these diets becoming considerable target groups that shouldn’t be ignored. Vegans, for example, are stereotyped as being extremely judgemental, but they also love to feel appreciated and included, so having one or two vegan dishes can boost your goodwill toward this group.
Similarly, there are people who are lactose intolerant and having food or drinks made with plant-based milk would make it easier for them to eat at your establishment. Same goes if you have any low- to no-carb menu items. The key is to includes as many different diets as you can while staying true to your business and theme. Diversifying your menu can be a great marketing boost for your business.
There’s no secret recipe when it comes to creating the perfect menu, but these tips will surely help you. Whatever you decide to do, remember to be authentic and listen to your customers, because at the end of the day, they’re the ones that make your business successful.