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10 Key Steps to Developing a Successful Menu for your African Restaurant

Developing a menu for your restaurant should not cause you headaches, however, it should not just be brushed aside as a less important aspect of your restaurant planning. This is a task to be taken very seriously and involves some good planning too.

Mr Horecan

The first step to developing a SMART restaurant menu is to first have a vision of what you want your restaurant to be known for; that is you need to have a concept first. When the concept is designed, then you can move to develop a strategy to achieve the desired concept.

If you don’t have an already developed concept plan in place, then, you should be thinking of one. You need to designing one now to be on the right path. With a good concept in place, comes a strategic plan on how to turn your concept into reality, and Part of that concept and strategy is the Restaurant Menu.

Like the ambience, and customer service, your restaurant menu is there to give meaning to the overall guest experience while also delivering emotions and brand personality.

Whether you are developing your very first restaurant menu or you’re planning to re-engineer an existing one, we have put together some of the fundamentals of a restaurant’s concept.

To develop a memorable food and beverage menu, however, you must have a thorough understanding of your target customers. You must identify who your target markets are? What class of the market are you catering for?

If you’re just starting out, developing a menu concept will assist both you and your architect in designing the right kitchen and bar layout capable of delivering your vision for effective productivity, storage, and preparation.

Here are the 10 key steps you can follow to help you create a successful menu for your restaurant.

Ademola Adetokunbo Crescent, Opp. GT Bank, Wuse 2, Abuja.
  1. Develop a Concept for your Restaurant….

First and foremost, you should ask yourself what you want your restaurant to be known for. That it… I want my restaurant to be known as “the best ‘what?’ in your area?

From here, you can begin to develop a flavour profile with supporting elements such as colours and textures that will deliver that promise.

The goal is to keep it simple and memorable. Try to keep your menu under 32 items for optimal productivity, and to minimize confusion and anxiety among your guests. Remember, guests prefer to make a decision within 120 seconds.

Take this time to list out your desired menu and if it’s too large, begin to narrow it down.

2. Now a menu concept can be developed

To develop a menu involves developing new and specific dishes and matching them with drinks. This can take a lot of trial and error, however, the results are overwhelmingly satisfying if done properly.

It’s important to understand your concept and target market while working with flavours that will make customers go ‘wow’

3. Develop a list of core ingredients

Put together a list of the core ingredients that will deliver that wow factor within your desired menu. You’ll also want to consider how you can repurpose raw ingredients as much as possible to reduce food costs and waste.

When considering ingredients, try using as much product from around you as possible – for example, produce that is in season, food artisans from your area, or meats from a local farm/butcher. Take this time to list out all the main ingredients you will require

4. Investigate your supply chain 

Now that you know your concept and its core ingredients, the next step is to identify multiple sources of where you can find them.

You want to reduce your risk (and often costs) by eliminating as many third parties as possible within the supply chain. When planning your menu(s), list out a limited number of targeted suppliers, including data on their company history, any past product recalls, their storage facilities, delivery logistics, and ethical working environment. Build a list of two to three local butchers, seafood suppliers, craft breweries, local wineries, and produce suppliers (etc.) needed for your concept.

5. Cost out your menu items

Using a recipe management program or simply inputting available data into a spreadsheet, design a menu engineering framework for each receipt. This will allow you to begin analyzing your menu concept, its portions, and each associated item with its core list of ingredients.

Based on the designed menu engineering framework, the restaurant concept noted ingredients, and each supplier’s cost, each menu items can be priced accordingly for your target customers and the local economy.

This will give you a clearer picture if there is enough room for profit, though based on your location’s needs.

6. Visualize your plating and glassware

Now that you have the concept and initial costs figured out, you can move along to the next step. Many aspiring restaurateurs forget about this one. It’s time to consider how your guests will eat and drink your menu offerings.

How will it look on the plate or in the glass? How will the colours contrast with one another? Is the dish or drink Instagram-worthy? Which elements should go on a fork or spoon together? If it’s available for take-out, how will the menu item perform after being in a container for 10+ minutes on the drive home?

It’s ideal to plate it three different ways, test it, take photos, and also test its longevity if it is going to be available for take-out. Again, trial and error make perfect.

7. Determine Profitability?

Is there enough balance in the pricing? What is the goal for average revenue per customer?

Does the pricing meet the targeted financial projections, having in mind that the menu you have created should meet the marketing plan?

This is where having a business plan in place will assist in understanding appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs) required to be a successful restaurant.

If the pricing is not marketable given your target customers and your location, then it is time to review the process again.

8. Run a test kitchen

Now it is time to run a test of your menu in the kitchen. This is arguably the most exciting aspect – testing the flavours! Do the menu items meet and exceed your expectations? Give each item a few different tweaks and decide which is best. Get others involved in the process and don’t be afraid to use a soft opening to gather further feedback. You may want to take photos and put them on social media to see which ones gather the most engagement from a visual standpoint.

At the end of the day, the key to a profitable and memorable menu is to keep it small and focused with items that you want to be known for – while differentiating your concept from local competition and offering a balance in pricing. This is the recipe for success!

9. Train your team

At this point, you want to bring the team together for adequate training on the menu, its recipe and drink combinations. You also want to consider the cooking methods for customers who may want to know.

10. Add Menu to the Menu Restaurant Book

At this point, your menu is ready for addition to the Restaurant Menu Book.

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