Your advice on menu development ...

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by verensem, Jan 4, 2005.

  1. verensem

    verensem

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    Hi all,

    I have a question concerning of a brand new start-up restaurant (still in the business planning stage) on developing their menu. What exactly would be the "proper and best" way to decide on and finalize the (standard) recipes?

    I've read that working with a chef at the beginning early stage would be a good idea. Does a chef usually charge to help with the menu planning? :chef: And what are some good ways in finding a chef? (word of mouth? specialized fee-recruiters?) I reside in the city of Calgary. :cool:

    What about the recipes themselves? Would it be considered "illegal" to take recipes from books and use them? Or do recipes need to be personally created?

    Thanks for your help.
     
  2. chef carl

    chef carl

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    hello i am here to anwser some of your questions. First of all working with a chef is a good idea to get new ideas out, but you don't have to, you can use book recipies and you would be fine. A chef usually charges to help develop a menu, since you are using thier ideas, so it may cost a little more to use a chef, but your food will be different and unique, where as book recipies have been done over and over

    chef carl
     
  3. devotay

    devotay

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    I'd say your going at this backwards. The menu is the very first thing that should be written, even before your business plan, as it determines everything else - inventory, equipment, staffing, location, decor, everything.

    If you have no experience in writing a menu, then you ABSOLUTELY should have a professional do it for you. However, I would caution against even entering into the business without a substantial amount of 1st hand experience. This is not an industry that is kind to greenhorns. So, assuming that you have some experience, I would pursue all angles to find a restaurant consultant: word-of-mouth, headhunters, trade magazines etc.

    Heck, I'd offer you my services, but I think you'd find the cost of flying me to Calagary to be kinda on the stiff side. feel free to post more questions here, though, and let us all know how things proceed for you!
     
  4. foodbiz2

    foodbiz2

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    I had recently been appointed Excec. Chef at a private club. Sometimes in a pinch I will come up with a special. What I do is get several ideas from about 3-5 cookbooks and gather them together to create on dish. It's kind of cool that you can have 3-5 dishes in one special. Try it, it's fun!
    Oh, get a book called Culinary Artistry, it does food matching for all types of ingredients. It's probably one of the best books to use.

    Good Luck !! :)
     
  5. emhahn

    emhahn

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    Where to start on this one........

    First, if you've never worked in a restaurant before, then go do! Anywhere, somewhere, just get your feet wet.

    Your menu:
    Your menu is the engine that drives your vehicle. It's the first impression you have on your customers and their reason to come back. Your menu needs the same attention as you would give to your own personal appearance each day. If you're menu looks like crap, chances are customers are going to treat it like crap.

    Menu Development:

    Diving into a cookbook for ideas is one thing, but "strategizing" menu for optimal inventory control, pricing, and production is quite different. Yeah, we all may have some "grand recipe" that was sent down through generations in the family, but if you have a menu that is made up of 15-20 of such items, you're going to have an inventory on hand (at all times) to support these items. Having experience in developing a menu will make you money, not cost you money.

    Customers Expectations:

    Design your menu to wrap around the theme or nature of your establishment. For instance, if you are creating a "fine dining" type establishment, what good is it going to do you if sell pizza and french fries? Stick to theme so your customers don't get confused about expectations.

    Just a few things to think about.....

    Eric
    RestaurantEdge.com
     
  6. keeperofthegood

    keeperofthegood

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    Hey oh

    I am not a professional, nor have I worked (much) in a restaurant, nor have I owned or operated one. However, a person can plan on paper [​IMG] and I have quietly talked to lots of owner/operators over the years.

    LOL, I gather that you are one of two things. A student doing an assignment, or a buisness person persuing an idea for someone else? You said "their" and not "my" lol.

    Well, standard recipes come with time for most places. For corperetised planned ventures its a different thing(they have access to different types of supliers than the mom and pops). But for the mom and pop it is a different thing. Having not been the ones to purchase stock befor, it is a growth experience of learning that, say, no local supplyer provides (just for example) cooking bananas. Or, your local guys are unwilling to risk the cost of kiwis year round and only do them at peak times of the year. Knowing when where and how to source your ingredients is a hands on learning experience.

    That being said......

    You need to know a lot of things:

    1. Whats your location? First rule in buisness, Location Location Location

    2. What hours are you planning to be open Breakfast Lunch Dinner

    3. What is the population makeup of the location over those hours Seniors Students Professionals Clubbers

    4. What is the median income level of your location Upper income posh Blue collar rustic and does that change over the hours you are open

    5 What other establishment are in the area Fast food franchises Sit in dinning Patio bars

    6. What is the historic makeup of the area A long series of failled burger joints bodes poorly for yet annother burger joint.

    Most cities have zoning restrictions on business. Regaurdless of the foods that personally interest you, you are subject to the whims and fancies of the locations available to you. Really humbleing to open a place with all your favourite foods on the menu and discovering your the only one that like them!! Knowing where you have availabe to locate will be a big first step.

    Then you will get to the actuall menu[​IMG]


    As to the actual recipes. well. Depemds on what they are. There is only one way to do a Wellington, or and open faced sandwich. You have a small leaway with these types of items, but stray to far and your customers will reject them. Also, yes, there are some things that are closely held secrets. I am not a lawyer, nor have I delt with this issue. There are a few here that have, mayhaps perhaps they can answer you on who holds the rights to a recipe.
     
  7. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    There's no hard and fast rule. The one rule you need, however, is the ability to be flexible with your menu and be able to respond to quickly should it need to change. You need to be able to do this all the way up and down the line, from menu printing to POS programming to purchasing to production. This is especially important in a startup operation where you're feeling your way around your clientele.

    Not all chefs are of the same mind as you. Make sure you outline your needs and make sure whoever you hire is on the same page. ie., the food needs to get from order to table in 12 minutes. Appetizers need to be there in 3. You need everything to be under $19 and given the size of the dining room you can only afford a staff of 8 in the kitchen. Something to consider: If a chef tells you it's gonna take 5 minutes to prep it's gonna take 10 in real life. Don't be surprised that you find out it's not "easy" when the chef tells you "it's easy." :D
     
  8. cape chef

    cape chef

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    There is a great deal of information to consider here, and well thought out.

    I quoted the above member because it is very important to understand those bullets.

    You MUST do a feasibility study broken down into a market survey and site analysis and you have to do a buisness plan to understand the area in which you are planning this restaurant.
     
  9. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    You can use any recipe. Do a search on copyright and "work for hire" at this site) for details. I've posted on it before on this site.

    Merely copying may not be a good business strategy, or it may. It varies.

    Phil
     
  10. verensem

    verensem

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    Thanks for all the sage advice everyone.

    Am I a student? :rolleyes: Well, I'd like to think so at this stage.
    Basically learning all I can on the foodservice business through books, and sites, and I know it'd be a good idea to work in a restaurant setting to gain experience. And yes, all these questions are actually for "my" business, and not "their", as I phrased it wrong. (figure of speech? :crazy: )

    In terms of the menu...definitly a good idea to adjust and adapt further along the way as the business progresses. However, the purchasing of the equipment is something that needs to be decided on and finalized. (more or less)

    Right now, I'm also looking to build a team, get collaboration, as so far this is a :eek: "one man show". And I've been trying to think of ways to connect with the right:

    1) Chef
    2) Restaurant Manager

    Otherwise, getting financing would be a tough bit. (or a "tougher" bit) :p
    Should I only look to hire locally? Or maybe build a webpage and advertise nationally? Internationally? Maybe I don't even need a chef? Just a cook?
    I mean, can a new start-up business afford a chef's salary right from the start? :look:

    Devotay writes:

    If you have no experience in writing a menu, then you ABSOLUTELY should have a professional do it for you. However, I would caution against even entering into the business without a substantial amount of 1st hand experience. This is not an industry that is kind to greenhorns. So, assuming that you have some experience, I would pursue all angles to find a restaurant consultant: word-of-mouth, headhunters, trade magazines etc.

    Yes, I'm trying to work with someone, (I'm thinking a "dietician"?) to develop this menu of mine. (with a strong focus on a healthy and delicious breakfast and brunch theme) Not only that, but combine it with the proper food costing, profitability, control, strategizing, and whatnot. (Fortunately, I've been paired up with a good accountant mentor to help me with this)

    KeeperoftheGood writes:

    3. What is the population makeup of the location over those hours Seniors Students Professionals Clubbers

    4. What is the median income level of your location Upper income posh Blue collar rustic and does that change over the hours you are open


    The thing is with this location I've been looking at is: well, think of a space right next to a "subway/train" station. And so the population makeup is actually pretty varied. So I'm not exactly sure how to specify it in the business plan. I'm thinking of basically giving a description of the downtown working trade within that area.

    Keep grilling me with any more questions you may have.
    Quite refreshing really. :lol:
     
  11. keeperofthegood

    keeperofthegood

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    Hey oh

    Ok, subways and train stations do attract a variety of people. But in terms of income, they tend towards Middle to Low income levels (students and seniors and the general group 'others'). (The middle income to Upper incomes own their oun cars and can afford the luxury of car insurance, the wealthy take limos, and the poor, well, they're poor)

    Easy to buy a $3 burger on the fly, not a $15 entre. At least for the day crowd. How big of a place are you looking at? If it has the ability to seat people, I would sugest that you keep it closed to "sit ins" untill after 6. That way you can do the "on the run" crowd during the day on the volume sales for profit approach, and then open the "sit in" dinnig for an evening crowd that isn't so rushed.

    I have not ridden a subway in 15 years, but when I last road those rails in my teens in Toronto, there were regular coffee, fruit juice, chocolate bar, newspaper stops on the way.. I would spend the afternoon and, with a map of the subway in hand, plot out what all the "competition" is on the way, and what they sell and how much they sell for. A subway is a unique form of road, and the establishments on it, though seperated my miles above ground are mearly next door to each other below ground.

    But I would say if you are looking at this type of crowd you will be looking at a lot of foods that are pre-made pre-pakaged. Really, a crowd that has maybe 2 or 3 minutes to make their connection can't wait on a fifteen minute serve. Fruit drinks, power drinks, power bars, enerrgy bars, nut cakes, fruit salads (dry, not floating in fruit juice), all done with a minimum of packaging that doesn't need a pair of scisors to open and come with any nessesary utensils.

    But, as I say, it does also depend on what is already being offered to these people. Another thing to concider. I don't know how common this is, but it does happen here. I only mention this as this can apply to anyone that is thinking along the same lines as you. There are stips of stores that have single owners, and these owners will have rules for shops they will and won't allow. You need to submit you buisness plan, and planned stock for aproval. If they feel your business doesn't fit in with the general flavour of shopping experience they are trying to creat, they simply won't let you in and and thats that.

    The only other help at this point I can offer is this. This is the post 911 world. The hospitality industry as a whole has not recovered to pre 911 levels. With all the pre-election terror alerts from the Bush government (though now that he is elected, thankfull these have stopped) and with all the international travel advisories form the WHO, and then silly littl things like ONE mad cow in Canada (never mind that Italy has an anual average of 100) well, its been rough for those that want to work. A good friend of mine co-owns a chinese take out, and he gets calls from as far away as fifty miles from people looking for work, and willing to commute the distance to do the work.
     
  12. emhahn

    emhahn

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    Verensem,

    As I said, you need to go get your feet wet in the business somewhere.

    Waking up one morning and deciding that you are going to open a restaurant is one thing, losing your shirt is another.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to jump to conclusions.... but I wouldn't dare call myself an auto-mechanic because I have a screwdriver in my toolbox. :eek:

    The restaurant business has one of the highest failure rates of all industries in America, mainly because of the long hours you will work each day, burn-out, slim profit margins, complex management issues, and more.

    Would you hire a chef who's never worked in a kitchen, but has read every cookbook out there? Would you hire a waiter who's never served a table?

    You mentioned financing... well, banks and investors are very reluctant to write a note to someone without much experience. And NONE, and I mean ZERO will write a note to someone with NO EXPERIENCE!

    You also mentioned a location you have in mind: Yes, it's true that "location, location, location" is a basic premise in the restaurant business, however if your menu sucks, your service sucks, your food sucks, your management sucks, and your landlord sucks, you don't have a chance in ****! All of which can be fixed with good experienced people at the helms of your establishment, who have spent years dealing with these issues, and know how to wander these issues with solutions, instead of excuses!

    Again, I'm not jumping to conclusions, but it's important to keep things in their proper perspectives. The "reality check" is the best check you could ever have!

    I'll do you a great favor by letting you test me on this one:, "go ask someone who has failed in this business, exactly what they think led to their failure." Listen and understand what they tell you, and how you can either avoid or absorb their advice. What do you see in them, that you may see in yourself?

    You've come here seeking advice, and advice is what we're giving you. There are many, many wonderful people here at Chef Talk Cafe to learn from, myself being one of them. I've been in the restaurant business for 25 years, and the least I can do for you, and for others is sharing what I have learned, so that you can benefit from it.

    Which is why I built this little website (with the help of many others) to your benefit!

    Eric
     
  13. chef_bob

    chef_bob

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    There has been lot's of good advice posted so far! One bit that I would add to the mix is contact some of the larger foodservice suppliers in your area. Some of the larger companies will offer menu planning and development support at no charge. A good sales person wil bend over backwords to help you have a successful business! I do a lot of menu consulting and development professionally and I can say that there are 100 ways to skin a cat, but to summerize some important points:

    * your menu must look professional

    * Your Menu must be layed out in a way that promotes the sale of your most profitable items.

    * Involving the person who will have to exicute the menu in it's development is very important.

    * your menu, restaurant and client base must all fit togeather well. (think of selling freezers in the arctic)

    If your ever in Toronto let me know, we can hook up for lunch and discuss!

    Good LUCK!!!