Restaurant Menu Planning Tips and Insights

October 2, 20232 min
Lauren Daniels photo
Lauren Daniels Tastewise

Restaurant menu planning is a crucial aspect of running a successful food business. It involves choosing the right dishes to offer, pricing them appropriately, and presenting them in an attractive manner to entice customers. But how do you go about planning a menu that will keep your customers satisfied and coming back for more?

This guide will explore essential aspects of restaurant menu planning and how to choose the best dishes for your establishment.

What Is Restaurant Menu Planning?

Restaurant menu planning is the process of creating a list of dishes that a restaurant offers to its customers. It involves putting together all the elements that make up a menu, including food items, descriptions, prices, and photos or illustrations. The goal of menu planning is to provide customers with an array of options that will satisfy their cravings while also ensuring profitability for the restaurant.

How Do You Plan a Menu for a Restaurant?


When planning a menu for a restaurant, it is crucial to keep in mind the restaurant’s concept and target audience.

Here are some steps you can follow to create a well-rounded and successful menu:

Understand Your Target Audience

The first step in menu planning is getting to know your customers. Consider factors such as age, dietary restrictions, food preferences, and budget when determining what dishes to include on your menu.

Choose Dishes That Represent Your Concept

Your restaurant’s theme or concept should be reflected in the dishes you offer. For example, if your restaurant specializes in Italian cuisine, your menu should feature classic Italian dishes like pasta and pizza.

Keep It Simple

Having too many options on the menu can overwhelm customers and affect the quality of your dishes. It’s better to have a smaller selection of well-executed dishes than a large menu with mediocre options.

Consider Seasonal Ingredients

Incorporating seasonal ingredients into your menu can make it more interesting and enticing for customers. It also ensures that you are serving fresh and high-quality food.

Think About Food Waste and Cost

Menu planning also involves considering the cost of ingredients and minimizing food waste. Incorporating ingredients that are versatile and can be used in multiple dishes is a smart way to reduce costs and minimize waste.

Experiment with Pricing

The price of a dish can influence whether a customer chooses to order it or not. Be strategic when setting prices, taking into account factors like food costs, competition, and perceived value.

Pay Attention to Menu Layout and Design

A visually appealing menu can entice customers to try new dishes or spend more money on their order. Use high-quality images and illustrations, organize items in an easy-to-read format, and consider using descriptive language to make your menu more enticing.

Offer a Variety of Options

Restaurant menu planning should also take into account dietary restrictions and preferences. Offering a variety of options such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or dairy-free dishes can attract more customers and accommodate different dietary needs.

Get Feedback

Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your customers about their dining experience and the menu. Use this information to improve and update your menu regularly.

Keep Up with Food Trends

Stay informed about current food trends and incorporate them into your menu if they align with your restaurant’s concept. Menu trends can change quickly, so it’s important to stay updated and adapt accordingly.

Continuously Review and Revise

Your menu is not set in stone – regularly review and revise it based on customer feedback, ingredient availability, and overall performance. This shows that your restaurant is constantly evolving and staying relevant in the industry.

Who is Involved in Restaurant Menu Planning?

The process of menu planning involves various individuals within a restaurant, including the owner, head chef, and front-of-house staff. Here are some of their roles in creating an effective menu:

  1. Owner/Manager: The owner or manager is responsible for setting the overall vision and concept for the restaurant. They work closely with the head chef to ensure that the menu aligns with this vision and meets the target audience’s needs.
  2. Head Chef: The head chef plays a crucial role in developing a menu that reflects the restaurant’s concept while also being feasible in terms of ingredients and labor costs. They are also responsible for testing and refining dishes before they are added to the menu.
  3. Financial Managers: Financial managers analyze the economic landscape and consider inflation rates that impact the cost of ingredients, labor, and other operational expenses. In the case of restaurant inflation, financial managers play a key role in ensuring that menu prices are adjusted accordingly.
  4. Front-of-House Staff: Waitstaff and host/hostesses often have direct contact with customers and can provide valuable feedback on menu items. They also play a role in recommending and upselling certain dishes to guests, so they need to be well-versed in the menu offerings.
  5. Suppliers: Without reliable suppliers, it would be challenging to consistently offer high-quality ingredients at reasonable prices. The head chef and owner work closely with suppliers to source the best possible products for their menu.
  6. Customers: Ultimately, the most critical stakeholder in menu planning is the customer. Their preferences and feedback should be taken into consideration when developing a menu that will attract and retain their business.

Restaurant Menu Planning Ideas

While the roles mentioned above are essential in creating a menu, there are also various strategies and ideas that restaurants can incorporate to make their menu more appealing and successful. Here are some suggestions for restaurant menu planning:

Seasonal Offerings

By using seasonal ingredients, restaurants can not only offer fresh and locally sourced dishes but also create a sense of anticipation for customers who look forward to new items on the menu.


A diverse menu ensures that there is something for everyone, catering to different dietary needs and preferences. Restaurants can achieve this by offering vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or low-calorie options alongside their regular menu items.


Introducing daily or weekly specials allows restaurants to experiment with new dishes without committing to adding them permanently to the menu. This can also create a sense of excitement and exclusivity for customers who are eager to try something unique.


Partnering with local farms, businesses, or chefs can not only help restaurants source high-quality ingredients but also bring attention and buzz to their menu offerings.

Limited Time Offers

Similar to specials, limited-time offers can create a sense of urgency for customers and drive sales. It can also be an effective way to test new dishes before considering them as permanent additions to the menu.

Visual Appeal

The presentation of dishes on the menu plays a significant role in enticing customers to order them. Including mouth-watering photos or vivid descriptions can make items more appealing and increase sales.

Types of Menu Planning

There are several approaches that restaurants can take when it comes to menu planning. Some of the most common types include:

Prix Fixe

This type of menu offers a set number of courses for a fixed price, usually seen in fine dining establishments.

A la Carte

A la carte menus allow customers to order individual items from different sections of the menu, giving them more flexibility and control over their meals.

Table d’hôte

Similar to prix fixe, this type of menu offers a set multi-course meal for a fixed price but with fewer options than a la carte.


Buffet-style menus allow customers to serve themselves from a selection of dishes for a fixed price. This type is often seen in casual dining or catering events.

Tasting Menu

Tasting menus offer a selection of small portions from the chef’s choice of dishes, providing customers with a sampling of the restaurant’s specialties. This type is becoming increasingly popular in fine dining establishments.

Is New Restaurant Menu Planning an Art or Science?

There is often debate on whether menu planning for a new restaurant is more of an art or a science. Some argue that it requires creativity and artistic vision, while others believe that data-driven decisions and market research are key to success.

In reality, it’s a combination of both. Menu planning involves understanding your target audience, analyzing market trends, and keeping up with industry standards. But at the same time, it also requires innovation and out-of-the-box thinking to stand out in a competitive market.

Menu design can also play a significant role in the success of a restaurant. The placement of items on the menu, the use of font and colors, and even the type of paper used can influence customer decision-making.

Ultimately, successful menu planning requires balancing both the art and science aspects. It’s about understanding what your customers want while also bringing a unique and creative touch to your offerings. With the right balance, a restaurant can create an appealing and profitable menu that satisfies both the palate and the bottom line.

So, it’s safe to say that new restaurant menu planning is both an art and a science. The key is finding the perfect balance between creativity and data-driven decisions to create a winning menu.

Additional Tips for Successful New Restaurant Menu Planning

  • Regularly review and update your menu based on customer feedback, market trends, and profitability.
  • Use AI and data analysis tools like Tastewise to identify popular ingredients, flavor combinations, and food trends.
  • Consider offering options for dietary restrictions or food allergies to cater to a wider audience.
  • Use descriptive language on the menu to entice customers and make their mouths water.
  • Experiment with incorporating unique or seasonal ingredients to keep your menu fresh and exciting.
  • Collaborate with chefs, bartenders, and other staff members to brainstorm new ideas for the menu.
  • Don’t be afraid to take risks and try something new, but always have a backup plan in case it doesn’t work out.
  • Keep an eye on portion sizes to ensure consistency and avoid wasting food.
  • Consider creating themed menus for special events or holidays to attract customers and increase sales.
  • Leverage technology like digital menus or apps to elevate the customer experience and streamline restaurant data collection.

Is Breakfast Restaurant Menu Planning Different?

Breakfast restaurant menu planning may differ slightly from planning for other meal times, as breakfast often has its own unique set of offerings and customer preferences. Here are some additional tips specifically for creating a successful breakfast menu:

  • Offer a variety of options to cater to different tastes and dietary restrictions, such as vegetarian or gluten-free options.
  • Consider the time constraints of customers during breakfast hours and offer quick and easy grab-and-go options in addition to sit-down meals.
  • Take into account the popularity of certain items throughout the week (such as weekend brunch specials) and plan accordingly with inventory and staffing.
  • Utilize locally sourced ingredients for a fresh and sustainable breakfast experience.
  • Incorporate popular trends in breakfast foods, such as avocado toast or breakfast bowls, to attract customers.
  • Don’t forget about beverages! Offer a variety of coffee, tea, and juice options in addition to specialty drinks like mimosas or smoothies.
  • Consider offering breakfast specials during slower weekdays to attract more customers and increase sales.

By continuously evaluating and adapting your breakfast menu, you can ensure that it stays relevant and enticing for your customers. Remember to also gather feedback from patrons to get an understanding of their preferences and make necessary changes to the menu accordingly. With a well-planned and dynamic breakfast menu, your restaurant can become a popular destination for morning meals.


How often should I update my breakfast menu?

It is recommended to review and update your breakfast menu at least every 3-6 months to keep it fresh and appealing.

Should I offer seasonal items on my breakfast menu?

Yes, incorporating seasonal ingredients and flavors can add variety and appeal to your breakfast menu. Consider offering specials or rotating items based on the availability of local produce or popular seasonal dishes.

Can I make changes to my breakfast menu mid-week?

Absolutely! If you notice certain items are not selling well or there is a high demand for specific options, don’t be afraid to make adjustments to your menu during the week. Just be sure to communicate any updates or changes with your staff to ensure a smooth transition.


Restaurant menu planning is an ongoing process, and the breakfast menu should not be overlooked. With careful consideration of popular trends, customer preferences, and seasonal ingredients, you can create a dynamic breakfast menu that attracts customers and keeps them coming back for more.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with new dishes and regularly update your menu to keep it fresh and enticing. By continuously evaluating and adapting your breakfast menu, your restaurant can become a popular destination for morning meals. So start brainstorming some delicious breakfast bowl options and get ready to wow your customers!

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