Menu Planning and Design

Reading Guide

Two-Column Notes Two-column notes are a useful way to study and organize what you have read. Divide a piece of paper into two columns. In the left column, write down main ideas. In the right column, list supporting details.

Content Vocabulary

• proportion

• truth-in-menu guideline

• printed menu

• table tents

• menu board j spoken menu j extender

Read to Learn

Key Concepts

• Evaluate basic menu planning principles.

• Define menu styles and design guidelines.

• Explain different menu categories and how they are typically listed.

Main Idea

Foodservice professionals have developed several principles to plan successful menus. Once the menu is planned it needs to be organized to appeal to the customer.

Graphic Organizer

Fill in each of the five menu planning principles in the five rectangles of a concept map like this one, along with a brief description of each principle.

3 English Language Arts

NCTE 4 Use written language to communicate effectively.

Academic Vocabulary

Menu Planning Principles

NCTM Number and Operations Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers, and number systems.

NCTE National Council of Teachers of English

NCTM National Council of Teachers of Mathematics NSES National Science Education Standards

NCSS National Council for the Social Studies

/CI Graphic Organizer Go to this book's Online Learning Center at for a printable graphic organizer.

Menu Basics

Imagine that you must plan and write a menu for a foodservice operation. You will want to write a clear and accurate menu that is easy to read. Foodservice professionals have created a set of principles that will guide you in planning a unique and appealing menu. Your menu will help your operation sell its food and meet customers' expectations.

The person who is responsible for planning the menu depends on the type of facility. In many foodservice facilities, the management staff plans the menu. In a large foodservice facility, such as a hotel, the executive chef works with management to plan the menu. Registered dietitians (RDs), foodservice directors, and chefs write menus for hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and other institutions. The main office usually plans the menu for chain restaurants.

Menu Planning Principles

You have already learned about various factors that influence menu planning. Foodservice professionals have developed some additional principles that will help you plan successful menus.


Some foodservice operations have limited menus. For example, a restaurant might offer only gourmet pizzas, or a school cafeteria might have a cycle menu. However, most customers expect to see a variety of dishes on a menu.

You can vary the types of food that you will offer. You also can vary the way the food is prepared. For example, for appetizers, you might have deep-fried vegetables and a cold shrimp cocktail. Entrées may include chicken, beef, and pork that are available roasted, baked, or broiled.

The visual appeal, or attraction, of a finished meal is also important. A meal without a variety of colors, shapes, sizes, temperatures, flavors, textures, number of items, and

Life Cycle of a Dish You must change the dishes on your menu on a regular basis. There are five stages in the life of any menu item:

• Development, when the dish and its ingredients are planned.

j Introduction, when the dish is first placed on the menu.

• Growth, when the dish begins to be popular among customers.

j Maturity, when the dish has gained its highest popularity.

• Decline, when the dish begins to lose popularity.

It is important to remove a dish from a menu either before or just as it begins to go into decline.

different arrangements lacks appeal. Imagine a plate that contains barbecued chicken, a baked potato sprinkled with chives, and crisp carrots. This meal is colorful and has many textures and shapes.

Another way to add visual interest to meals is with garnishes. A garnish is an edible food, such as a sprig of parsley or an orange slice, that is placed on or around food to add color or flavor. A simple lettuce leaf and tomato slice can brighten up an ordinary chicken sandwich.


Fruits, vegetables, starches, meats and other protein foods, and dairy products are all essential parts of a healthful diet. A menu should include foods from each of these groups.

When a menu offers meal options, think about how foods will look on the plate. You will add to the visual appeal and flavor interest by varying the flavors, shapes, colors, and sizes of foods.

Placement Visualize how the foods will look on the plate and how the plate will be placed in front of the customer. Plating is the arrangement of food and garnishes on a plate.

Good plating is key to visual appeal. Attractively plated food leads to enhanced customer satisfaction.

Serving Size Do the portions of food look too small or too large on the plate? Will customers think they are getting their money's worth?

Proportion The proportion of a dish is the ratio of one food to another and to the plate. Is the proportion pleasing to the eye? For example, if you offer a smaller portions of food for children, the portions should be balanced in size to each other and to the size of the plate.

Number of Foods on a Plate As a general rule, an odd number of foods on a plate is more visually pleasing than an even number of foods on a plate.


FDA guidelines require that certain menu statements are accurate. A guideline that shows truthfulness in statements about nutrition, quantity, quality, grade, and freshness is called a truth-in-menu guideline. (See Figure 12.2.) Restaurants that do not follow these guidelines can be required to pay a penalty.

For example, "homestyle pies" must be baked in the establishment's kitchen, not purchased already prepared. "Louisiana frog legs"

must have come from Louisiana. However, some geographic names are accepted as generic descriptions, such as French fries or New England clam chowder.

Federal law also requires that nutritional statements like "low fat" or "light" be truthful. Restaurants must be able to prove any nutritional claims that are made in advertising. Heart patients on restricted diets may order a meal based on its nutritional claim. What might happen if a dish labeled "cholesterol free" on a restaurant menu is not really cholesterol free?


Regardless of the type of foodservice business, menus should offer healthful food choices. A menu planner at an institution has a special responsibility to provide nutritious, appealing, and well-prepared meals. People who eat at institutions usually cannot go somewhere else if they do not like the food. Nursing homes and hospitals must also offer a variety of foods for patients who need special diets, such as those following low-fat diets and people with diabetes or food allergies.

Low-Fat Diets People follow low-fat diets for many reasons, such as heart disease, cancer, weight control, or just to maintain a healthful lifestyle. These people need foods high in fiber and low in fat and cholesterol.

Culinary Proportion Design
Proper Balance Color, proportion, serving size and placement are all important components of a visually appealing meal. Do you think one of these plates of food is more visually appealing?
y FIGURE 12.2 Truth-in-Menu Guidelines

Accurate Menus Federal law requires that certain statements on menus be accurate. Why is this important?



1. Brand names must be represented accurately.

Examples of brand names of products on a menu are: Hunt's Ketchup, Hellmann's Mayonnaise, Green Giant Frozen Vegetables, and Butterball Turkey.

2. Dietary and nutritional claims must be accurate.

To protect customers from potential health hazards, the dietary structure of food must be correctly stated. For example, low-sodium or fat-free foods must be correctly prepared to ensure the protection of customers. All nutritional claims must be supported with statistical data.

3. The preservation of food must be accurate.

The preservation of food is as follows: frozen; chilling; dehydration; drying, such as sun or smoking; bottled; and canned. If a menu planner wishes to use the previous terms, the terms must be used correctly on the menu. For example, fresh fish is not frozen.

4. Quantity must be accurate.

If a sirloin is 16 ounces, it must be stated on the menu that this is the weight prior to cooking.

5. Location of ingredients must be accurate.

If Dover Sole is on the menu, it must actually be from Dover, England. Pancakes with Vermont maple syrup must be served with syrup from Vermont, not New Hampshire.

6. Quality or grade must be accurate.

When listing quality or grade for meats, dairy products, poultry, and vegetables or fruits, accuracy is critical. For example, if you state that a steak is "prime sirloin," it must be exactly that. You cannot use choice-grade meats and say that they are prime on the menu.

7. Cooking techniques must be accurate.

If broiled swordfish is on your menu, it must be cooked exactly that way. You cannot serve the swordfish baked.

8. Pictures must be accurate.

For example, apple pie a la mode must be apple pie with ice cream.

9. Descriptions of food products must be accurate.

If shrimp cocktail is described on the menu as "four jumbo shrimp on a bed of crushed ice with a zesty cocktail sauce and lemon wedge," and the shrimp cocktail comes with medium-size shrimp, the description is incorrect.

Examples of low-fat, high-fiber foods include fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain breads and cereals.

Diabetes People with diabetes must balance food, portion sizes, exercise, and medication to stay healthy. Menu items that are appropriate for people with diabetes include fruits and vegetables; lean meats, poultry, and fish; low-fat and sugar-free products; and whole grains. It is also helpful to list information about the carbohydrate content of menu items.

Food Allergies You must provide detailed information to customers about common foods and ingredients that may cause allergic reactions. For example, a sauce that has peanuts should be listed on the menu. This way, customers who are allergic to peanuts can avoid the dish.


Menus need to change from time to time for many reasons. The target market or the cost of various ingredients may change.

Food Allergies Menus should include detailed descriptions of the ingredients in dishes for customers with common food allergies. How can customers prevent allergic reactions to foods?

Food Allergies Menus should include detailed descriptions of the ingredients in dishes for customers with common food allergies. How can customers prevent allergic reactions to foods?

Write Menu Descriptions

Often, the basic menu list is a description of each item in the most appealing language possible. Because of limited space, each description should be as short as possible.

If customers do not understand what a dish is, they will not order it. Descriptions need to be clear and specific. For example, "fish" is too general. What kind of fish? How big is it? How is it cooked? How is it seasoned? "8-ounce charbroiled salmon with dill sauce" is a much better menu description.

It is also important that the actual food matches the printed menu description. The fish described above should indeed be salmon, weigh 8 ounces before cooking, be charbroiled, and come with dill sauce. Entice, or attract, customers with honest descriptions. If the meal they select from your menu does not meet their expectations, they will be disappointed.

is responsible for planning the menu at a nursing home?

Menu Style and Design

You are given menus from two different restaurants. One is a thin piece of paper that doubles as a place mat. It features meals on the front and children's activities on the back. The other menu has a padded cover with the restaurant's name embossed in gold. The menu items are written in elegant letters on thick, cream-colored paper. Without even looking at the menu items, what are your impressions of these two restaurants? What kind of atmosphere would you expect at each?

The menu style and design reflect the personality of a restaurant and the customers who frequent it. Menus can also be a creative way to market a restaurant. Some menus feature the history of the building or the person who founded the eatery. Others display the daily menu in elegant calligraphy. Some display the day's menu casually on a chalkboard.

The menu is the main way in which a foodservice operation communicates with its customers. The factors that have the most impact on menu style and design are the same influences on the menu that were discussed in Section 12.1.

Once you know what types of food to include on a menu, you need to organize it in a way that is most appealing to the customer. Dishes that are grouped in categories are easier for customers to find. The look and feel of the menu will also influence what customers think about the food.

The menu's cover design, color, style of lettering, weight of the paper, and the way descriptions are worded influence how customers feel about the restaurant. There are three common formats of menus. Each sets a different tone for a meal.

Printed Menu Format

A printed menu is any form of printed menu list that is handed to customers as soon as they sit down. These menus often contain a list of specials. A special list that is fastened directly to the menu is called a clip-on. Daily specials can also be written on folded cards that stand on the table. This is called a table tent. A table tent can also be inserted in a stand that sits on the table. Printed menus can be changed daily using a computer and printer. There are also computer programs that can help you design and print specialized menus.

Menu Board Format

A menu board contains a handwritten or printed menu on a board on a wall or easel. It can easily reflect daily menu changes. For example, a chalkboard can be erased and a board with printed inserts can be changed. Its informality and flexibility make it perfect for use in cafeterias and fast-food restaurants. The chalkboard menu also can be used in an upscale restaurant to emphasize freshness and creativity.

Spoken Menu Format

In some restaurants, after a customer is seated, a server states what foods are available and the prices of each. This is a spoken menu. It is often limited to a few items. Other restaurants present only the daily specials as a spoken menu.

Some foodservice professionals believe that a spoken menu is friendly and increases conversation between customers and servers. Others think that a spoken menu does not allow the customer time to study the menu and make a decision. Many guests view spoken menus as a sign of well-trained servers.

Describe the menu board format.

Menu Categories

Regardless of size and style, all printed menus are broken down into categories. The type of restaurant determines the categories and the order in which they are listed. Some restaurants use all of the menu categories but change the names to reflect a menu theme. For example, a restaurant with a sports theme might label its appetizers as "First Inning." Other restaurants add and delete categories based on the type of meal they serve. For example, a breakfast menu would not include appetizers, but it might include a section of "skillet items." Generally, categories are listed in the order in which they are consumed.

• Appetizers Appetizers can be hot or cold, and can range from nachos to fruit salad to crab cakes. (See Chapter 19 for more information on appetizers.)

• Soups On some menus, soups and appetizers appear in the same category. Cold and hot soup choices range from thin, savory broths to thick, creamy chowders. See Chapter 20 for more information on soups.

• Salads This category refers to salads made with fresh, crisp vegetables and sometimes fruit or nuts. Some house salads come with a choice of dressings that are created by the restaurant.

• Cold Entrées These entrées include salads topped with poultry, ham, or seafood, as well as cold meat, fruit, and cheese platters.

• Hot Entrées The ingredients and cooking methods for hot entrées vary greatly. Hot entrées usually include meat, poultry, fish, or seafood. They also can include casserole items, or extenders. An extender is an item made from leftover, low-cost ingredients. Vegetarian dishes such as vegetable lasagna are also popular hot entrées.

• Sandwiches Sandwiches, such as hamburgers and grilled cheese, are often shown only on lunch menus. They can be served either hot or cold and can be made from many different ingredients. Sandwiches often come with various breads, condiments, and spreads. See Chapter 19 for more information on sandwiches.

• Accompaniments Vegetables and starches that serve as side dishes fall into this category. Vegetables provide a healthful, low-cost, colorful addition to meals. Starches include pasta, potatoes, rice, and other grains.

• Desserts Desserts often are displayed on separate menus or on dessert trays. Because many customers do not eat dessert at every meal, servers may need to spend extra time selling desserts. Desserts can include ice creams, puddings, and pastries.

• Cheeses and Fruits Cheeses such as brie (bre) and Gouda ('gu-ds) are often listed with fresh fruits as an alternative to an appetizer or dessert.

• Beverages This category lists beverage selections and prices. This usually includes juices, milk, coffee, tea, and soft drinks.

food items might be found in the accompaniments category?

SECTION 12.2 ^iïtfïttmî Review Key Concepts

1. Summarize the items to think about when you plan a balanced meal.

2. Describe the spoken menu format.

3. Summarize the hot entrée category of a menu.

Practice Culinary Academics ^^ English Language Arts

4. You have been asked to design a menu for a new upscale restaurant. Think of a theme for the restaurant, and describe how you would incorporate that theme into the menu design. List menu items for each category.

NCTE 4 Use written language to communicate effectively.


5. When you plan your menu, you determine that 40% of your entrées should be vegetarian. What fraction of entrées will be vegetarian? If 62 !6% of your appetizers are vegetarian, what fraction of appetizers are vegetarian?

^^^^^ Converting Percents to Fractions Change percents into fractions by writing the percent as the numerator and 100 as the denominator. If the percent has a mixed number, change it to an improper fraction, then multiply by V1 00.

Starting Hint Convert 40% into 40/Î00, and reduce to lowest terms. 62 !6% should first be converted to an improper fraction, then multiplied by Mm, and finally reduced to lowest terms.

NCTM Number and Operations Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers, and number systems.

Bji Checkyour answers at this book's Online Learning Center at


Menu items must be priced correctly to make a profit.

Continue reading here: Pricing Menu Items

Was this article helpful?

0 0