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Reader Q&A: How do I Update my Restaurant Menu?

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Reader Q&A: How do I Update my Restaurant Menu?

Whole grains are popular for restaurant menus in 2013.

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Question: Reader Q&A: How do I Update my Restaurant Menu?
Dear Restaurant Guide,

My restaurant has been opened for nearly four years and I am really tired of the menu! I want to update my menu for the New Year, but I am not sure what I should add to it. I know there are new food trends, but will they last? And what about my bar? I feel like it needs new drink specials. I have no idea where to start!

Thanks ,

Julia A.

Answer: Dear Julia,

I’m fond of saying food is like fashion. It has trends, fads and certain staying power. Some foods, like a classic burger (the little black dress of any menu) will undoubtedly be around forever. To help identify new and old trends as well as menu items with longevity, the National Restaurant Association releases an annual What’s Hot Chef’s Survey and this year, for the third year in a row, locally sourced meats, seafood and produce top the list of Hot Trends. Other hot trends you may want to include:

Healthy kids menus
Environmental sustainability
Gluten free cuisine
Sustainable seafood

Be careful of hot trends, though, as they can quickly turn into food fads (bacon flavored chocolate, anyone?). Current food fads include mini burgers (popular a few years ago) fish collars, cold soups and fun shaped kid food.

Instead, focus on building a core of perennial favorites, which can be altered to mirror current food trends. For example, a perennial favorite on dessert menus is fruit pie. You could offer standard apple or blueberry pie. Or you could offer homemade apple pie featuring local apples from a nearby orchard or organically grown blueberries. Much of menu appeal is in how you word your descriptions. To help you change up your menu or include innovative new specials, try shopping local at farmers markets for fresh ingredients that add quality and appeal to items. Read on for 10 reasons why restaurants should buy local.

As for sprucing up your bar menu, the National Restaurant Association also polls 200 bartenders about hot trends, fads and favorites for alcohol. Top trends in alcohol for 2013 mirror food trends of 2013 with emphasis on local, onsite, and organic liquors. The rise of micro distilleries and on site production is among the biggest trend for 2013. Another popular trend is food-beer dinners and food-liquor pairings. These are a new take on a traditional wine tasting dinner, which has been popular for decades. Read on for the complete list of what’s hot and what’s not for alcohol in 2013.

Along with adding new items to your menu, it is important you price them effectively. You want to make sure your prices match your food cost. 30 percent is standard food cost for most menu items. Read more about how to price a menu.

Remember, even if you are tired of some of your menu items, your regular customers may not be. Those tried and true items may be what keeps them coming back meal after meal. To get a better feel for what you should keep and what your customers would like to see added, try using comment cards. These cards can help you gauge everything from customer satisfaction to job performance by staff. Read more about how to write a customer comment card.

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