By Bruce Wilson, Chef Consultant at BAW Consulting Ltd
Time and again when helping businesses deal with these challenging issues, I find that menu design is fundamental to ultimate success or failure. Yes, of course many other factors come into play but if the menu isn’t right, it can put everything else at risk. Let me explain what I mean.
First and foremost, a menu has to be designed with customer expectations in terms of cost and experience at front of mind (ie formal or informal, is the emphasis on accurate plating or speed of service). However, it’s also vital to think about the skill set both back and front of house in order to deliver it. That doesn’t mean you can’t offer something special – it just means that careful thought is required to make sure it’s both suitable and achievable.
The way I look at it is that product is key. Getting the right ingredients for the customer profile makes all the difference. So a good piece of fish cooked simply and well can be as good as any Michelin-starred dish and can be charged for accordingly: minimal prep time or fridge space required.
Also think about the logistics of service. Customers shouldn’t be rushed, but food should arrive quickly or complaints will follow no matter how delicious it is when it arrives. Again this is where menu design comes in – I am a strong believer in doing as much of the work as possible before service, especially at this time of year, so that when several large tables all walk in at once your team can cope.
Whatever you decide, having a manageable combination of dishes on the festive party menu is absolutely critical. Unless you’ve got a large kitchen, having three or four options for each course should be plenty. Any more, and if the team can’t cope, you risk making a turkey out of Christmas.
Bruce Wilson is a Chef Consultant at BAW Consulting Ltd, which specialises in advising food, catering & hospitality businesses on pre-planning, site launch, and on-going management advice. www.bawconsulting.com