Hotels and hospitality in south africa

Hotels and food in South Africa

Menu Planning for beginners - Hotels and food in South Africa - Information on Hotels, the Hospitality industry, food, and food preperation in South Africa

Menu Planning for beginners

Food and food preperation in south africa




Menu Planning for beginners
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18 October 2006

Menu Planning for Beginners

What is a menu?

Essentially, a menu is a list of dishes and beverages which has prices attached.

Why do we need a menu?

For the customer:

The menu is an information sheet for the customer. It tells him what is on offer in the way of food and beverages, at what price in what portion size. It also creates a "mood" or ambiance and expectations in the mind of the customer.

For the knowledgable manager:

The menu allows the manger to plan his / her whole business.
The menu tells the manger, what type of business he runs.

For instance:

  • a la Carte or
  • Table b Hotel

An a la carte menu differs from a Table d Hotel menu

Types of Menus:

The a la Carte menu:

An a la Carte menu has a wide choice of dishes in each category, larger portions and the dishes are more costly (due to the fact that the portions are bigger and the wide choice may cause a possibility of having to keep items for a fairly long time in storage).

This menu is also normally more expensive due to the fact, that the manager cannot always exactly forecast the amount of business and how well a dish will be liked.

Additional to this is, that the dishes are more difficult to prepare and this means a higher qualified person / cook or chef is needed which demands a higher salary.

In an a la Carte menu, each dish is individually priced. This allows the customer to make a choice according to his means without having to loose “face” in front of his peers which may have more money.
He simply pretends that he has very little appetite.

The Table d Hotel menu:

This is a “set menu.” That means, it is pre-determined by the operator.

This type of menu has little or no choice and is entirely made up by the operator.
However, it has only one price for the whole menu, which will usually be at least a starter, a main course with starch and 2 vegetables and a dessert with coffee. The portions are much smaller that in an a la Carte menu, due to the fact, that a person’s stomach can only hold a limited amount of food. Smaller portions means smaller cost, little choice means smaller cost and very good control over the portion size; plus, a set menu is usually prepared for a known amount of people. This is exactly, why a set menu is ideal for functions ( e.g. Christenings, birthdays, weddings, wakes) or for a “captive” amount of customers, such as in institutions (Old Age Homes, Schools, Universities, travel by air, bus, boat or train, Hospitals, the army and not to forget Jail populations).

A “Cycle” menu:

This is a type of set menu which keeps repeating within a certain amount of time. This is usually for a period of 3 month which equals a season such as spring, summer, fall or winter.

By staying within these seasons, we can take advantage of the fact, that anything which grows within this season will be at its best quality, freely available, and therefore at it’s cheapest!

Another advantage of the cycle menu is the fact that repetition improves performance by the workers and this improves productivity and is ideal for training situations.

However, there must never be a situation, that the repetition is so predictable, that people look at the calendar and say ” It is Monday, so we must be getting lasagne”.

How does a menu allow the manager to plan his whole buiness?

A menu consists of a number of dishes.
All these dishes are prepared by means of a recipe.

The recipe tells the manager:

  • What He / She has to order
  • How much He / She has to order, at what quanlity, cut and price.

The recipe has a method attached to it, which tells the manager:

  • How difficult is it to prepare, which tells him
  • How skillful his staff has to be in order to prepare and serve the dish

The method also tells the manager what type of machinery and equipment he has to have to produce the menu.

The ingredients and type of dishes as well as the names of the dishes will tell the manager what type of business he is running (a take-away has a different type and standard of menu from a 3 or 5 Star Restaurant)

By getting quotes for equipment, he does not only get information about the price of the equipment, but also about the size, which helps him to calculate the amount of production space which he will need.

The Price of the ingredients, labour cost and size and price of his premises will give him a pretty good idea of the kind of budget he will need to run his business.

It is exactly for this kind of reason, that the saying “THE MENU IS YOUR BUSINESS” is entirely true.