When Golf Digest awarded Turtle Back Golf Course four-plus stars as one of Wisconsin’s best courses its focus was on the fairways. A portion of the rating also had to do with the food. Under the direction of Scott Maanum, the course has flourished over the past decade. Maanum is one of the first professional chefs I hired over a decade ago to help built a clientele in my Minnesota restaurants. Before his entrance, I had a few cooks and hacks who thought the paper stove pipe toque was all they needed to create a plate, but Maanum was the one chef who taught me the intricacies of the ingredients that make a restaurant successful. Maanum is not a screamer, but a whisperer who has a methodical style in his management skills, and his recipe for success.
He learned early on the importance of customer service and care when he changed a recipe before a catering event for a wealthy, food dynasty matriarch in Wayzata and almost lost the large catering account. And, Maanum taught me the importance of something as simple as a bar menu for my postage stamp sized Faux French Bistro.
At the time I was as green as somebody could be in the restaurant business. I had a fairly impressive menu that changed weekly, broadening the appeal of the 50 seat space. Although there was a small bar, with four stools and a beer and wine license, I never thought of edible bar offerings. Too far into the woods to see the trees.
Maanum came up with the first menu while I was away. It was simple and its popularity grew rapidly. It was a revenue generating proposition and if you have a bar, without a bar menu, you are losing some serious dollars.
The menu doesn’t have to be elaborate, or fancy. Creative helps, but something as simple as a cheese platter-artisan cheeses- with a cluster of grapes, melon, and a quince spread works nicely, or the standards also work nicely. The menu is a sampling of what you offer at the tables. But it not only gives your guests an idea of your food style, but your style in general. The plate should be one that you would serve to your best customer. It represents who you are.
So now that the season is here, get ready for a full bar. And, begin creating that bar menu. If you already have one, change it a bit. Along with he creation of the dishes, remember to create a promotional piece letting customers know that there are a few items on the new menu.
Finally, don’t forget to train the bartenders to present the menu, or ask if customers would like to see it. And, if you want to get them talking, on occasion deliver a platter of appetizers to the bar- “on the house” – so your patrons get a flavor of who you really are.