Revamping the Menu

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by shawtycat, Mar 24, 2002.

  1. shawtycat

    shawtycat

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    How is your menu set up? Ive realized that most of our customers order apps, sanwiches and desserts from our menu but will order dinner only from our Specials board. Our Specials board offers Soup/Salad, Your choice of potatoes, vegetable and bread and butter with each meal. (No potatoes with pasta of course).

    I want to run an idea past my MIL (she's the owner) to change the menu so that only the apps, sandwiches and desserts are on the menu and to leave the dinners on the special board. That way everything will be cooked fresh and we wont have to go searching through storage and refrigeration in vain to create a dish off the menu. Then realize we are out of stock.

    Im costing out our menu and creating an inventory check to see if we have been under charging for our dishes. My MIL is not very knowledgeable about business but I don't want to lead her down the wrong path. So Im doing research before I approach. I think she'd actually be happier to go back waiting tables and not have to worry about the P&Ls. I also think that 16 dinner specials is too many and that we have been spending way more than we are receiving. Due to our location near 4 highways, the Meadowlands and in between a few towns, we should be making much more than we are.

    Do ya'll think this is a good idea? Oh BTW we are a small diner in NJ with Fixed Prices.
     
  2. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    You need to realize that by doing that you have to put a little time each day into marketing each and every one of your products. Some of your items don't require that they be on the board, they will sell themselves. In fact, I'm willing to bet that some of your customers don't even have to look at the menu. Set up your four quadrants using price on one axis and sales on the other. Take your average entree price based on actual sales and use that as your midpoint. Pay attention to the low priced low sales items. Set yourself a baseline based on the minimum amount you need to sell in order for that item to remain profitable for you. Decide how much time and effort you want to devote to that. If it falls below that, take it off the menu. Take a look at some of your other weaker items and spend your time on those too. Let the good sellers sell themselves, on the menu.

    Kuan
     
  3. chiffonade

    chiffonade

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    We used to set up our menu with basic items including basic dinner items, then list specials on the board. You want to abolish all dinner selections from the printed menu? I guess that would free you up to buy ingredients as you needed for ever-changing, seasonal dinner offerings.

    However, a problem I've found as a diner is that I go to a place to have something I've had before that I absolutely crave, only to find out that a) it's not offered anymore or b) the "new owner" dashed my favorite dish from the menu. As a diner this can be extremely frustrating.

    If a diner sees a dinner on the permanent dinner menu, they may assume it will be available at a later date. If something appears on the specials board, they read it as a one-time thing.

    Is your complement of dinner offerings on the current permanent menu very large and diverse? How many specials do you offer per day?
     
  4. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    Chiffonade,

    Did we both just say the same thing two minutes apart? :)

    Kuan
     
  5. billyg60

    billyg60

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    I think you need to look at what are you popular items and which ones are not. Find out what is not selling and take it off the menu to free up space for something else that will make money.

    I actually have to start doing this next week at the restaurant I work for. Don't forget to take into acount storage space,prep times labor etc for any new items you want to add. Make sure that you will still be making money if you make some changes.

    Good Luck
    Billy
     
  6. shawtycat

    shawtycat

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    Most of our customers never order off the menu. Everyone that comes in either orders one of our chargrilled 1/2 lb burgers or heads straight for the special board. My MIL (the owner) has about 18-20 items on the special board per day. So you can see why no one ever pays attention to the menu. And most of the things on the permanent menu, when ordered by a customer, our reply is mostly "sorry, we are out of that". This is why I wanted to revamp the menu.

    Our busy periods are breakfast (which is offered 24 hrs) and overnights. During the dinner rush we see mostly sales of the chargrilled burgers and items off the specials board. What is the sense of having the entree section to the menu I wonder sometimes. I say instead of "specials" on the board, just say dinner entrees. Ive seen other places offer dinner this way.

    I know I have to look at our expenses (gas & electric, taxes, labor etc.) and food costs then price my meals accordingly. I seem to be the only one bothering about what our losses are, since my MIL does not know how much we are making. We have been here since 1947 and my late FIL ran the place until Feb last year. I dont want all those years of hard work to go straight to h***.

    And as for our regulars they know Ill cook off menu for them and I do take requests from all customers. If we do not have the ingredients to make a request I will usually talk with them until we agree on a meal that I will personally cook. I get lots of repeat business that way.

    I forgot to mention that we do not even have Standard Recipes. If one of our cooks gets sick the other has no idea on how to make some of the dishes. This is just to let you know how much work I have to do. Plus Im not getting paid for this. Im just the daughter in law/free pastry cook/line cook who is also a whiz at administration (been doing admin since I was a junior in HS).:( At least I can use the experience on my resume, right?

    Thanks guys.
     
  7. marmalady

    marmalady

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    WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU'RE NOT GETTING PAID????"?????? Am I going to have to take a ride up there and have a talk with MIL?!!!!!


    Seriously, my friend, for the amount of work and dedication it seems like you're putting into this family business, you need to get some compensation. Sure, family ties are strong, and it's a noble thing to taken on the task you seem to have jumped into with both feet!! But------------you're a young mom, with another on the way; and you need to get compensated for your time, skills, creativity and devotion.

    Do you feel awkward about asking? A thought - how much time are you going to be off work after bebe arrives? You know things are going to go to h*** in a handbasket while you're gone - when you're ready to go back to work, that might be the ideal time to approach mum in law to be put on the payroll. Remind her how good it was when you were there, and how bad when you weren't.

    I don't believe anyone has to be a slave for their family. You deserve the right to earn a living for YOUR family.

    End of rant. Please know that this is said with all the love and good intentions I have, Shawty!!!
     
  8. shawtycat

    shawtycat

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    You sound like my mom marmalady.

    Oh Im on the payroll, though I dont see anything. Its a long story. My hubby can't be on the payroll for reasons that will remain unmentioned, so I was put on so that he would get his money. He works 14 hrs a day, 7 days a week FOH for $300/wk. We have been wondering if we should just stop caring about the business and let her have her way. We created a delivery service, t-shirts for souvenirs, I rewrote and printed the menu so she didnt have to pay 3 grand for em. So far we have heard how he is destroying the business. :rolleyes:

    We are only trying to keep up the business because we care. But that is wearing off. Weve decided that we could use this as a learning experience for when we get our own place. He will handle FOH (cause he's soo good at it) and Ill handle BOH and admin. So it kinda stopped bothering us.

    I got sucked in with the menu, then the takeout menu, then driving to the deliveries, then making desserts, then cooking BOH and handling incoming deliveries, invoices, commercial & photo shoot bookings. Sigh. Ive told my mom that if someone is gonna use me, I may as well get something out of the bargain. I don't sweat the small stuff and my MIL needs us more than we need her. We actually would prefer if she retired and took a cut of the business. Can you believe she spent 9 grand in one day shopping, went out and spent 3 grand the next and told my hubby how much he was costing the business?:mad:

    Well enough ranting. I promised myself to look on the bright side. Im learning the executive chefs job the hard way.
     
  9. marmalady

    marmalady

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    Have you ever seriously thought of buying her out? Checked out SBA for advice? This is breaking my heart!!!
     
  10. shawtycat

    shawtycat

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    We thought about it....but

    1.We don't have that type of money
    2.His other siblings wouldn't go for it
    3.She wouldn't go for it

    My hubby as the oldest was promised the diner and actually thought he would have it when his dad died. But his dad got sick rather quickly with AML Lukemia and died in 2 weeks with no will written. So of course his mom got everything. When his dad was alive, they talked and agreed on renovations, new menus and management. He was slowly getting more responsibility. The diner was supposed to go to him because of our son. As in Greek tradition, our son has his grandfather's name and the diner was to be our son's inheritance. Now he's a little dejected because he knows now that it will never happen. The only thing we can do is get a place of our own. We almost had one but thought his dad would get better and didn't jump on it. There's always next time.

    BTW Im trying for a "non hostile takeover", the more I do the more I know and we will be the ones actually running the business. Comprende?;) My hubby is the one the staff stays for anyway. If she forgets $25 - 50 from their pay, he pays them. He arranges (or argues) for their raises. Let me just cut this short and say that technically we are running the business.
     
  11. monkeymay

    monkeymay

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    Ohh Sweetheart - I've been there! Why is it we are such enablers of bad behavior?( It's the mommy in us - we want to make everything better...) The one thing no one can take away is your KNOWLEDGE and SKILL
    (of which you seem to have plenty) - small recompense I know, but I always TRY to believe it's important to have faith - good deeds WILL pay off in the long run...But for your actual work - you've got to get PAID MONEY NOW!!!
    S*** goes down a lot easier if money is attached!

    I know all this will turn out in your favour!

    Good Luck
    Monkey
     
  12. athenaeus

    athenaeus

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    ShawtyCat

    As Greek and as lawyer I advice you to get our of there as soon as possible.

    There is no way on this very earth that your MIL will leave you the restaurant.

    NO WAY especially if she is Greek.

    Something personal. You work many hours and you have babies.
    When I go to work around 8 o clock that means 3 in the morning in NJ I find you on line. You need to rest too my dear you are very young.

    You are killing your self and you dear MIL won't help you if something bad happens to you.

    Greeks are survivours that mean that they are harsh , they care only for their blood and sometimes they are racists as well.Especially the not so educated ones.

    I am sure that there are other restaurants to appreciate your hard work and your creativity.

    I know that it's easy to be an outsider and make comments and give advices that's why I wish you good luck and prosperity and happiness with your husband and the lovely baby I saw in the photo :)

    And next month I will take Marmalade and we will driver there to check on you :)
     
  13. shawtycat

    shawtycat

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    Well it is now 8am here. Thanks for the great advice guys. My hubby (her son) just came home late as usual because she came late, as usual. He is sick but the phone will begin ringing at 3pm as usual to wake him up. Deep down inside I know the diner will never be left to him. Not since his dad died. She is working him into the ground you know. Even on his supposed day off he has to go in at 11pm and he is only able to see the kids for 5 minutes a day since I decided to stay home in my 6th month.

    As for racist, that was her when she met me 3 years ago. I wasn't even an "African American", I was of all things "West Indian", you know from the "Third World". I remember us not being invited to his niece's 1st bday party. Things changed when she saw our son's skin color though. I worked at the diner until I delivered our son almost two years ago. We put our foot down this time around. Anything I do I will do from home since the doc kinda put me on bed rest. (That's why Im up at 3am) I just finished an online course at the CIA, which by the way she wouldn't mind me going since she'll have an actual "chef" at the diner. Good for promotions right. :mad:

    And as far as getting paid, he works more hours than I do and has been doing this for 6 years with no vacation or break. I dont really want to have anything to do with the business except as a learning experience. I was originally added to the payroll so he would get paid but ended up doing more than just helping him out. I dont want to say more about it other than to say that he is blind.

    The bottom line is....as long as Im getting something out of this I dont mind using her back. I lived by myself in NYC since I moved out of moms house at 17. I worked to Executive Assist. at a Mergers and Acquisitions firm. I can easily get a higher paying job, since I was making 50k before I moved to NJ. But I love to cook and if I can learn by having free access to a kitchen, so much the better. Im a little cynical but very realistic. I am learning lots from her on what not to do in the restaurant business. Things will be better when I have this baby and am able to work again.

    Ok shutting up now :blush:

    PS
    You arent the only ones peed off about this. My mother is itching to get her hands on his mom. I just tell her to vent at home but stay out of it.
     
  14. marmalady

    marmalady

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    Shawty - You have more gumption than anyone I know!!! My hat's off to you for what you're trying to accomplish, and how you're dealing with your situation, and what you've overcome in life's little drama.

    You deserve the very best that life can give, and I'm sure with the attitude you have, you'll do just fine!!!

    However------------you mentioned hubby's blind - you're not only a woman, but a 'minority' woman - the government is aching to give support to folks in your category!!! Since you're home, why don't you just try to talk to the folks at the Small Business Administration, just to see what they'd say? I'd also check on the Dept. of Vocational Rehab in your area, to see if they could help hubbie - Voc Rehab is basically an arm of the Social Security system in this country, and their sole purpose is to get folks up and running with jobs. Then you could say s*** you to MIL and maybe get your own place! AND of course you'll be making some wonderful Caribbean food!!!!

    PS _ Listen to Athenaeus!!!!!
     
  15. shawtycat

    shawtycat

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    Yeah Ive heard of that stuff. Im also a photographer on the side (yeah Janet of all trades) and registered a home business with the dept of revenue for resale of computers. Want to change it to photographer since Im making more sales for photos than computers. :smile: Id like to learn how to take pics of food, but I mainly do people. Yup even regulated to bed rest I can't stop working. Boredom will do that to ya. I actually sleep with my laptop you know. :blush: :D

    We also just got something in the mail from SS about working but he cant go over a certain amount or they will take away his benefits so that's why hes still at the diner. (working for free since she has the mortgage on our house and he is supposed to get it) We need the money right now. My mom and step dad have been talking about opening a place but it would be in our old country. Id get to be a partner and one of the chefs since all three of us cook. But I dont think my hubby wants to leave the States.

    Ill look at the SBA site again about loans etc. to help open a biz. My step dad says itll take loads of dough to get it off the ground. So I wanna spend more time learning the biz and building my cooking skills. Hence the CIA course and still being at the diner. So any help I can get regarding mgmt skills is all I can hope for. BTW Aren't you supposed to have great credit in order to get a loan or grant from the SBA??