How to build a unique restaurant menu!

Menu by Auguste Escoffier, 1909 workathlon
by Panayiotis Valsamakis, Executive Chef | Euphoria Retreat Holistic destination spa

How were the European restaurants and the first restaurant menus born? The European restaurants’ story starts in 1760 in the malnourished Paris. During that period, crowded taverns were no longer able to attract eminent guests who started looking for a new style of restaurant. Now they can choose their preferred meal among chef specialties, their table (no more communal tables) and the service time.

The epicures had a wide selection of restaurants covering every need of theirs. Now everybody can compare the quality of the food and service in a restaurant, giving restaurateurs and chefs a hard time. The most common problem was similarities among restaurants. Which one will finally stand out? The answer is the ones with the most creative menu! In this article, which is inspired by the Christof Ribbat’s book ‘The restaurant’, we are going to let you know how exactly you can construct a creative menu.

How can we build a menu that will be profitable for our restaurant and at the same time attractive to regular guests?

Regarding the menu creation, we need to pay attention to the following two critical points.

In terms of the concept (important to restaurant reputation and menu creation):

  • We need to decide on the concept (restaurant’s character) while considering, the area, the target group, the ease of access and the maximum number of guests it can host.
  • We should define the variety in the menu. It is safe to have a small menu (till 10 items) that changes seasonally.
  • Another good idea is to have an expensive product in the menu but keep an eye to the concept. We don’t need a very premium product if it raises our cost but not our profit.
  • Finally, it is essential to have 2-3 signature dishes. The dishes that the restaurateur and the chef are proud of. This is one of the reasons for a guest to revisit the restaurant.

As for the menu structure,

  • We must stress the importance of naming – giving titles to our dishes. It is a great mistake to misrepresent a famous – signature dish.
  • Our most expensive dish must be placed in the most visible part of our menu (refer to the attached picture).
  • Do not try to deceive the guests by focusing in products protected with designation of origin if you don’t have proof for that.
  • The names in our dishes must relate to the concept and the atmosphere of the restaurant.
  • It is better to avoid large and pompous item explanations
  • To avoid any misunderstanding, alway print the allergens for every menu item
  • Finally, try to price the dishes and calculate the prices in a professional manner by including every single cost (labor costs, energy costs and fixed costs)

workathlon menu

The way in which the majority of people reads a menu (Source: https://www.lifo.gr/team/fooddaily/28865)

In conclusion, building a menu is very serious step. A good result comes from heavy research. The next time you visit a restaurant, question yourself if it is better to sacrifice the authenticity of a restaurant or a dish, for a large menu of a very low quality or bad recipe execution?


[1] Ribbat, Christoph, In the restaurant, translation. I Tsirigakis, D. Karafylli. Estia 2019.

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