Bringing menu ideas to life is equally as exciting as it is frustrating, challenging, and often improbable. However, the rush of having your idea make it to print and then to the tables of paying customers is worth the sweat. It's also a process, since there is as much art as there is science involved in planning great dishes. So before you present an idea to the head chef, check out the following tips in order to land a spot on the menu.
Supporting the Business
If it doesn't bring in money, there's no point in adding a new item to the menu. Food cost is a guiding light in determining the profitability of a dish, so make sure your idea is effective and worthwhile. Money does and will be a main concern when it comes to a chef's decision-making process.
Appeal and Seasonality
When pitching ideas, consider your ingredients and whether they sound appealing. For instance, beef heart is a low-cost, underutilized piece of red meat that foodies love, but it could turn off a lot of paying guests. Safe harbor ingredients aren't always the answer, either, so you'll have to compromise. Think about what's popular in the current market. Are you seeing a lot of plates of artisan cheeses and home-cured meats? Start with today's trends and then add a personal twist to your ideas.
Who is your audience? Are you serving a vegetarian hipster group that enjoys whiskey and avocado fritters? If so, then presenting a reinvention of a veal meat loaf to the head chef probably won't work. It also doesn't hurt to take into account what customers are saying both in person and online. If the current menu is geared toward a certain demographic, then make menu ideas approachable and appealing to those guests.
Need and Fit
You may want to create a dish that has the potential to replace an underperforming menu item. No matter how great they're made, or how delicious they taste, some dishes just aren't successful. Offer an alternative for the chef to consider, and spruce it up with ingredients that are currently popular on the menu.
Perhaps the easiest way to craft a new menu idea is to examine current trends. For instance, pork belly is surging in popularity. How can a braised pork belly dish be the splash you make on the menu? Matcha, skirt steak, and bao are also contemporary ingredients that don't tremble with unfamiliarity. By adding a trendy ingredient, the chef will see your idea as having good curb appeal, and they'll be more likely to add it to the menu.
Kitchen Flow and Performance Anxiety
In order for a dish to get the chef's stamp of approval, it has to fit into the framework of the kitchen. Is the kitchen equipped with the tools and skills to execute your dish well? Does the dish call for sous-vide but there isn't an immersion circulator in sight? Or are you presenting a coffee-rubbed lamb rack without a cook that's proficient with frenching? Make sure to consider every detail.
When presenting a new dish to the head chef at your restaurant, make sure you've done the research and have a well-thought-out idea. Then launch the sales pitch. Don't bring it up during Friday dinner service, and definitely don't ask the chef before his first cup of coffee. Go in confident, but humble, and your guests will have the chance to order your dish in no time.