It’s almost time for the summer menu. And, now is the perfect opportunity to begin thinking of those summer menu changes. Your chef and his team of assistants should be itching to get out of the culinary doldrums of cold weather, winter dishes. They should be experimenting and creating new items for the menu that customers have yet had the experience of tasting. Creating a new summer menu involves more than going into the bottom right hand drawer of the manager’s desk and rifling through a pile of old coffee stained menus from summer seasons past.
Creating new dishes is an evolution that should always be in the back of your mind and your kitchen staff´s.
This year think about salads that have never been on your menu before, create them and test them with your staff. If your chefs are not of the creative type, ask a few of your customers what they might like to see on the menu. Pick up the latest food magazines and study them as they usually highlight upcoming trends- not in other restaurants but in people´s kitchens.
Ad, the benefits of food magazine recipe, used as the foundation for another creation, is that the toughest part of the creation – the portions- are done. And, the food cost is just about done for you, also. Converting ounces and tablespoons of this and that to retail cost can be done simply. Take a wholesale quantity discount and you’ve obtained a very simple, albeit rough food cost for the meal. And, we all know that one of the hardest things to get out of your kitchen are the cost factors on the menu.
Don’t forget to consider price fluctuation when you are developing a summer menu. Often produce fluctuates drastically throughout the course of the year, and with salads highlighting many menus in warmer climates, restaurants can get pummeled with higher food costs in July, after a drought has an adverse effect on crops. In May, when lettuce was reasonably priced and the menu was created who knew. Pay attention to that.
Also, with the staggering gas prices, pay close attention to your invoices. Those "delivery surcharges" that are a separate line item can rip your financial heart out when nobody thought to figure them into the cost of the special chanterelles that were shipped across country.
Buy local. With the abundance of the farmer’s markets in every neighborhood in the country buying local is a great way to fight the cost of gas that we will all suffer from- with the exception of the oil execs who should all take their money and open eateries. The farmer’s market is a tremendous way to make contacts for fresh, locally grown produce and many an artisan purveyor would love to sell a few restaurants but many don´t have the time to solicit business.
If you use them, however, put them at the top of your accounts payable list. Artisan purveyors need their bills paid, and unlike many large corporate publicly traded giant suppliers, they don’t have the resources or cash reserves to handle slow pay salad flinging restaurant guys.
Was the Cobb Salad named after famed, New York City restaurant owner, John Cobb. If you ask him he will say it was, but who really knows?
Create great names for your creations. Develop a history, and a story for the name. We are in the entertainment business. Entertain the customer every chance you get. Whether it be when you greet them, when you seat them, or when you give them the story board of your kitchen´s ability- the menu- let them know that you thought of them when you created it.
The Nantucket Bucket- Lobster, Clams and boiled potatoes served on Sunday nights, lakeside., – in a bucket. Chicken Chardrione- a simple chicken breast sautéed in white wine, shallots and mint. Flaming Rosemary Rack of Lamb served with a dried rosemary branch flaming table side as the waiter lights the aromatic twig on the way to the table. Sales increase dramatically after the first branch is set ablaze.
Go to it. It´s summer. Create some new dishes. Give them a catchy name. And, when your menu is done, before its printed, invite ten of your best customer´s in and sample the menu with them at a noticeable tale in your dining room. If your food is great, and the new creations enticing, you have just covered customer service, hospitality and advertising with a party for ten.