Effective menu development


Your menu ultimately determines the types of customers you will attract, the employee skills that are necessary, the equipment you need, and the sales and profit your restaurant will produce.

Follow these steps to develop a menu that will increase customer satisfaction, sales, and profit:

1. Review your objectives for being in business

2. Assess your financial needs.

3. Determine the daily customer counts and check averages required to meet your financial goals.

4. Check the capacity limiting factors of your restaurant (number of parking spaces, number of seats, type and size of equipment available, skill level of your staff, days and hours of operation, menu selection, concept, location, etc.).

5. Adjust the limiting factors that restrict your ability to meet your financial objectives.

6. Interview your staff to hear their suggestions and opinions concerning your menu.

7. Talk to your customers. Ask them about their reasons for patronizing your restaurant.

8. Reassess the potential of your trade area. Notice the changes that have occurred in your neighborhood since your last menu change.

9. Visit all the restaurants in your area that compete directly for your customers. Note their volume of sales, the type of menu items they feature, their price range.

10. Find some new items to place on your menu.

Research current culinary trends.


Review food articles and restaurant reviews in local newspapers and magazines.


Talk to your purveyors.


Try new items as daily specials at varying price points to test their popularity with your customers.

11. Keep track of your regular menu item sales counts for a number of weeks.

12. Re-cost your basic recipes and the plating cost of all menu items and specials.

13. Set up a simple spread sheet to assess the sales and popularity of each menu item.

Multiply the number of each menu item sold by both the item's sales price and its plating cost.


Subtract the item cost from the item sales to determine the gross profit contributed by each item on your menu.


Add the totals for all items to determine the overall sales, food cost, and gross profit produced by your existing menu.


Compare the labor intensity involve in production and service of each menu item to its gross profit contribution.

14. Separate your menu items into four categories:

Items with high sales and high profit contribution


Items with average sales and high individual profit contribution


Items with high sales and low individual profit contribution


Items with low sales and low profit contribution

15. Decide on item changes for your menu.

Replace all items with low sales and low profit contributions with tested daily specials, that have proven to be popular and profitable. Plan on replacing 25%-30% of your menu items to keep the menu fresh.


Raise the prices of all popular (high sales) items that produce low individual profits.


Improve the name, description, presentation of all high profit items items that produce average sales.

16. Plan the layout of your new menu.

Place the items that produce the highest profit at the beginning or end of any group list.


Place the lowest profit margin items in the middle of a group list to reduce their frequency of sale.


Box and highlight your high profit signature items.

17. Perform a "what if" analysis of the new menu. Repeat step number 13 to determine the theoretical sales and profitability of your new menu. To determine the sales and profit contribution of new menu items, use their actual costs, and estimate their sales. If the new menu's estimated total sales and profits do not meet the financial objectives you determined in step number 2, continue to adjust individual menu items and prices until they do.

18. Engage a graphic artist to help you select paper quality, type styles, colors, and graphics that will enhance the appearance of the menu, as well as highlight your most profitable items.