One of the biggest mistakes that new restaurant owners make is not having a specific menu for their opening. Menus often change, based on everything from seasonality to product availability to what’s most popular on the menu. But it’s critical to have a well-thought-out menu before you begin, for a number of reasons.

Concepts and themes

Sometimes a new restaurant owner will have a theme in mind, such as Caribbean cuisine, Fish House, Italian, etc. It’s great to have these concepts because they will drive the original menu and also tell patrons the type of food they can expect. Since diners often search based on the type of food they’d like to eat, having a theme can be very helpful when it comes to attracting customers.

However, going beyond this type of theme is also important. It’s good to know the feel you want as people enter the restaurant, and what type of food they will be eating. But it’s just as important, or even more important from a financial standpoint, to think out the details for the starting menu.

The devil is in the details

A new restaurant owner needs to have a detailed menu first in order to know what type of equipment is required for food preparation, cooking and optimal production.

For example, equipment needed to make sandwiches:

  • Prep table for constructing the sandwich and storing food contents. Some prep tables are also refrigerated to keep foods cool and unspoiled.
  • Convection oven necessary for restaurants that make their own bread. This style of oven is ideal for bread making because it blows heat throughout the oven, which decreasing the risk of burning the bottom portion of the bread.
  • Conveyor toaster perfect for toasting prepared sandwiches ready to be served.
  • Commercial microwave is good for reheating sandwich contents that need to be warmed or melted.

If you plan on opening a pizza restaurant, you’ll have a totally different set of equipment needs, including:

  • Dough mixers and a space to roll-out the dough
  • Proofers with enough space for the amount of dough you’ll need
  • Pizza oven

Once you have your equipment figured out, a restaurant design and construction professional can help with the required space and workflow design needed, as well as specific mechanical, electrical, and plumbing designs.

Hopefully, this gives you a sense of what you need to do when creating your menu. Think about all the dishes you plan to make when you first open. Then think through the food preparation process, from storage of the food through initial prep and cooking.

Remember to include workflows and service for space requirements

If it’s just you doing the food preparation and cooking, then you only need to think about the process you will go through preparing a dish. However, since you’ll be creating a commercial kitchen, it’s important to be aware of the larger equipment needed for cooking larger orders. For example, cooking one chicken dish needs a certain amount of space, while cooking five of the same orders, or ten, may demand not only more space but a different piece of equipment.

And it’s also important to think about how the food will be served. For example, in a diner, food may be passed through a window; the kitchen is on one side of a wall, the patrons and service on the other, and someone serves the food.

In your new restaurant, will other people be entering the kitchen space, i.e. servers? If so, be sure that you think about room for them to come in or pass through. The same holds true for clearing and cleaning dishes after the food is eaten.

Food costs

In addition to the equipment and space needs, the menu will dictate food costs. Here’s a link to get you started figuring out what the food cost is for each dish. There’s also a food cost calculator.

To summarize, it’s important to figure out your:

  • Cost for each dish
  • The “fixed cost” per meal
  • The percentage of your revenues covering food costs
  • Targeted food costs – and price per meal – to provide adequate profit for revenues.

After you’ve been open for a few months, you can do a menu analysis to see if you’re going in the right direction with the items you’re serving.

We hope this outline helps you to see why creating a menu, at the very beginning, is critical to the success of your restaurant. It helps you figure out your equipment needs, layout, and costs, as well as your food costs. This way, you can be sure that you have enough funding to open your restaurant successfully and make your dream come true!

Our goal is your successful new restaurant

As you can see, opening a restaurant or any type of food facility isn’t simple. At Danto Builders, we provide guidance and advice, walking you through the project from start to finish. We do everything possible to ensure the project is completed on time and on budget.

For more information, or to schedule a time to talk about your restaurant dream, contact us today.




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