Of course, the process of creating a menu in a new or existing restaurant is directly related to the equipment available in the kitchen. Therefore, if your restaurant is just opening, creating the list of dishes should be done in parallel with the selection and purchase of equipment; that is, 5–6 months before opening. If the kitchen is already equipped, it is better to postpone the menu creation and even the final choice of chef until the concept is fully defined. Then it will be easier for you to choose a person with the right experience and competencies, who will resonate with your philosophy, vision and overall concept.
The first question that managers and owners usually ask is: how many dishes should be included in the menu? There is no definitive answer, but generally the restaurant menu shouldn’t be too extensive. The typical “our guests want variety” attitude usually stems from a lack of professionalism or creativity from the chef. “Variety” refers not to the number of dishes on the menu or the cuisines presented, but to the variability of flavor combinations. If in the main course section of eight items, four contain chicken, then the guest will have a subjective feeling of more uniformity than in the case of five dishes using different types of animal and vegetable proteins.
Research has found that people make decisions faster and easier if they are given fewer options to choose from. Other research points to the fact that menus with more categories create a sense of high value. For example, in the "Appetizers" section you have 13 dishes, among which there are share plates, bites and cold snacks. It would be logical to break it down into three parts: dishes to share (3), cold snacks (5), bites (5). In that case, guests will be able to make a choice much faster, and you will be able to effectively manage this choice.
So, how many dishes and sections should a menu have? The question, of course, depends on the format of the establishment. In fast food — 20-25, in a reasonably-priced cafe — 30-60, and in a gourmet restaurant, the menu may well consist of one page with only 12-15 dishes.
Ideally, before starting to work out the menu, you or your chef (if you already have one) should make process maps for the accountant, who will create calculation cards for you. From the calculation cards, you will see how much money you will earn from each dish and the average percentage markup, which should coincide with the markup that you originally included in your preliminary business plan.
If the menu does not coincide with your plan and does not pass according to the ideal percentage markup, then instruct the chef to make changes wherever the markup isn’t met.
Be sure to design the menu so that the ingredients are interchangeable and used in a variety of dishes.
For example: If your chef includes octopus in a dish, make sure the octopus is used in one or two other dishes. If your chef creates a menu in which each dish contains unique ingredients, then you will need a very large warehouse and the ingredients will spoil in large quantities, leading to non-profitability of the entire restaurant.
I advise you to pay close attention to the menu creation. After you have approved the menu with the accountant and the calculations proved that all the dishes are aligned with your ideal markup, then you can start optimizing each dish according to taste. This is also when you approve the plating of each dish, which I advise you to photograph and print. When you’re working on a dish, invite friends and acquaintances to provide feedback as potential consumers. Make adjustments until most people say the dish is tasty and they are ready to buy. Development is an important stage for the formation of your product, which you will continuously improve upon over time. You also need to prepare a seasonal menu based on the available ingredients.