When it comes to menus, Sue Guilfoyle says consistent pricing, seasonal produce and highlighting provenance are critical.
The look, design and feel of a menu is a key part of a pub or restaurant’s offer. Not every wholesaler can offer a menu-design service, but there’s plenty of advice that we can offer pub and restaurant customers to ensure their menus are getting the taste buds going and keeping customers coming back.
I’ve had many different experiences with menus, from being offered one on a chalkboard to being handed a digital menu on a tablet. So what works best?
Having a digital menu can be trendy but some may find it impersonal. No matter what type of menu your customers have, engaging with diners is also critical. Staff must be prepared to talk about the menu with confidence and clarity.
Another important consideration is how often pubs should assess and change menus. A mid-range family pub could run the same menu for as long as six months. This would help to keep prices and expectations consistent.
However, it could be different for a gastro-pub or restaurants in the suburbs – they could be changing their menu every eight to 12 weeks to respond to seasonal produce.
Smaller independent outlets could be changing their menus weekly, which would allow them to tap into more seasonal products.
Ideally, it’s good to have a core range of a dozen key lines, together with a specials board that reflects more seasonal produce and food trends, as well as capitalising on suppliers’ promotions.
How about pricing – is it ever okay to increase prices? In an ideal world, restaurants would never change their prices at all, but with fish and meat costs often changing daily, this can be a difficult to sustain. One solution is for wholesalers to procure more carefully so that we can fix prices for a period of time. At JJ, our promotions are fixed for three months at a time, which gives restaurants the assurance of solid and consistent margins.
The alternative is to reflect price changes on your menu, but this can be unsettling for a diner. It’s never nice to be charged more for the same meal and it could mean diners not returning to that particular outlet again.