Usually the term menu refers to the written or printed list of different dishes from which a restaurant customer makes a selection. It may also mean the product of the restaurant, namely, its food. Before a new restaurant opens, the owner decides on its basic character, including such features as its location, size, staff, equipment and cuisine. Further decisions must be made on a day-to-day basis, particularly about menu. Planning the menu is important from two points of view: the owner’s profit and the customer’s pleasure.
Anyone who plans menus should have some basic knowledge of nutrition and the properties in food that contribute to the health of those who eat it. For institutional food service this is so important that their staff often include a dietitian to plan correct nutritional values. This is essential in hospitals where many patients are on special diets.
Foods are usually classified into five basic groups according to their nutritional values; the menu planer should have some knowledge of these groups. Proteins are the cell building elements in foods. Meat and fish are rich in proteins; there are small quantities in grains such as wheat and rice, in nuts and in some kinds of beans.
Carbohydrates are compound of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen that provide the body with heat and energy. Grains have a high carbohydrate content, and so do potatoes and sugar.
Fats are oily substances that are another source of heat and energy, they also form deposits of fatty tissue in the body. Vegetable oils are a liquid source of fat; other foods rich in fats are dairy products such as milk, butter and cheese.
Minerals and vitamins are substances necessary in very small amounts to regulate the functions of parts of the body such as nerves and glands; they are widely distributed through many different foods.
In addition to knowledge of these nutrients, the modern menu planner should be aware of calories. A calorie is a unit of heat that is used to indicate the energy value of food. Only a certain number of calories can be used by a human being, calories in excess of those are stored as fat.
Today when most people are conscious of the relation between beauty, health and weight many count their calories carefully. The menu planner in a restaurant attracting customers who watch their weight should be careful to provide a number of low-calories dishes. Even gourmet cooking now has chefs who adapt or develop dishes with lower calorie count.
Menu must also include a variety of foods that appeal to customers in different ways. Institutional foodservice establishments with a captive clientele – factory cafeterias, hospitals, school canteens, army camps – make a special effort to vary their menus so as to avoid complaints.
In restaurants trying to attract the general public the daily menu often remains the same for a long period of time but offers a large number of different dishes. Other restaurants may offer different dishes every day.
Food appeal is another factor in menu planning. This includes not only the way the food tastes but the way it looks on the plate, the way it smells, and even its texture. Appeal to the eye is especially important: the shapes and forms, the color combinations even the dishes in which the food is served. The Japanese have raised the eye appeal of food to an art.
The person responsible for menu planning in some restaurants is the chef, or chief cook. The term cook usually indicates an assistant to the chef. In small, independently owned restaurants, the owner-manager and the chef work on the menu together. Very large restaurants and institutional foodservices may have a menu department under a dietitian.
The normal procedure is to plan the menu for several days in advance. Some large institutions work out menus for a whole year in advance. It is customary to decide first on the main courses or dishes, know as the entrees, and then plan the rest of the meal around them.
Some features – appetizers, desserts and beverages – may change very little or not at all over a long period of time.
Two systems or pricing dishes on the menu are customary, both are known by French terms – table d’hote and á la carte. On a table d’hote menu, the price of the entrée is the price of a complete meal.
On a á la carte menu each dish (appetizer, entrée, side dishes such as vegetables and salads and desserts) is priced separately. Restaurants with á la carte menu are ordinarily more expensive than those with table d’hote.
Many people who know the cost of food at local markets believe that restaurants make a large profit, they see only the difference between the prices they pay for their own food and the prices charged by restaurants. What they don’t see are the direct and overhead costs of the business. Overhead is usually defined as indirect business costs that can’t be assigned to a particular product or operation. In the food service industry overhead include items such as rent, taxes (gas and electricity). Direct costs include not only the food itself but wages paid to employees. Direct and indirect costs must be considered in menu planning. Food that the restaurant purchases must have a low enough cost to return a profit on the prices charged for the prepared dishes. Food costs vary for a number of reasons beyond the control of the restaurateur, those who plan menus must be aware of these price variations.
Pleasing the customers is usually described as merchandising – making a product interesting so that customers will buy it. the restaurant’s appearance, location and cuisine must be designed to appeal to a particular and available clientele. It is necessary to please the customers so that they will return. The daily menu must appeal to those whom the restaurant wishes to attract. A lunch-time establishment in a shopping center, for example, concentrates on salads or sandwiches, while a restaurant in a tourist center may offer the local cuisine. The printed menu is key factor in restaurant merchandising. When the menu changes daily it is common to use a cover with the name and logo of the restaurant on it. A few restaurants have a hand-written list inside an elaborate cover; others have their menus printed or typed every day; others have a permanent menu, often with illustrations of the dishes.
Typed, printed or handwritten notes on specialties of the day can be attached to these permanent menus. The style of the menu, like the appearance of the public areas of the restaurant, is an indication of the kind of establishment it is.
Perhaps more than in any other business, word-of-mouth recommendation is the most important means of merchandising restaurants: one person recommends good restaurant to another, who then tries it. If the food meats the expectation, more recommendations will follow, and the restaurants may be a success. If the food is disappointing the restaurant will soon be in trouble.
There are other factors that affect menu planning including the availability of particular foods, the kitchen and its equipment, the capabilities of the staff, the variety of dishes served, nutrition and so on. the customer will usually make a choice based on food preference, experience, location or recommendation of a friend or guide book.
Menus are among the souvenirs that customers frequently take from restaurants. Many people ask for a copy of the menu when they have had a particularly memorable meal and the manager usually complies since he is merchandising at low cost.
Task 1. Answer the questions.
1. What does the term “menu” mean?
2. How are the decisions about the menu made?
3. Why is planning of the menu important?
4. What should the menu planner know?
5. Why do staff of institutional foodservices include dietitians?
6. How are food usually classified according to their nutritional values?
7. In what way do these elements contribute to the health of the people? What is a calorie?
8. Why should the modern menu planner be aware of calories?
9. How do restaurants attract customers who watch their weight?
10. Why do foodservice establishments have to vary their menus?
11. What is food appeal and why is it important?
12. Who is generally responsible for the menu planning?
13. What is the normal procedure of menu planning?
14. What dishes are usually decided on in the first place?
15. What features may remain on the menu for a long time?
16. What are the customary systems of pricing dishes?
17. Why are restaurants with á la carte menu more expensive?
18. Why do people think that restaurants make a large profit?
19. What is overhead(s)?
20. What do overheads include in the foodservice industry?
21. How are direct costs calculated?
22. Why do food costs vary?
23. What is merchandising? Why is it important?
24. Why is the printed menu a key factor in restaurant merchandising?
25. How do restaurants make their printed menus attractive?
26. What features are indications of an eating establishment?
27. Why is word-of-mouth recommendation a very important means of merchandising?
28. What happens when the food is disappointing for the customer?
29. What other factors affect menu planning?
30. How do customers make a choice?
31. Why do customers ask for a copy of menu?
Task 2. Find in the text another way of expressing the following:
1. The food served by a restaurant; also a list of foods and beverages from which a customer makes a choice.
2. A person trained in planning menus for maximum nutritional value.
3. An accomplished cook, either the head cook or the one who prepares complicated specialties.
4. The container in which food is served; also a particular item of prepared food.
5. Oily substances in food that provide heat and energy and build fatty tissue.
6. Indirect costs involved in doing business, such as rent, taxes, electricity and insurance; they can’t be assigned to a particular part of the operation.
7. Making a product interesting or appealing so that customers will want to buy it; restaurant ___________ includes not only food and service but factors such as appearance, location and advertising.
8. An arrangement in which each course of a meal is priced separately.
9. The qualities in food that nourish health or growth of the person eating it.
10. A person specializing in the preparation of food that is cooked quickly, often found at a lunch counter or fast food restaurant.
11. The units of heat used to measure the energy-producing value of food.
12. An arrangement in which the price of the entrée includes a complete meal.
13. The vital cell-building substances in food.
14. A dish other than soup served before the main course to stimulate the appetite.
15. The substances, necessary for life, that regulate the functioning of nerves and glands.
16. The recognizable symbol of an organization or business.
17. A dish served at the end of the meal; most often it is sweet.