How to Hone Your Menu to be More Focused and Flexible (even with staff shortages)

Get more for less with your menu!

The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit with staff shortages. We recently explored how to simplify your service if you’re struggling with staff shortages in your venue. Simplifying your menu is a key step in reducing the number of staff needed for your service and reducing the risk of closing your doors when you don’t have a full team. Simplifying your menu can also help keep food wastage to a minimum.


So, let’s take a closer look at your menu and what exactly ‘simplifying’ it means. For many of our customers in foodservice, simplifying your menu means keeping it focused and flexible. That means:


  • It’s focused on a single cuisine, style or offering (and there aren’t so many choices the kitchen staff have to ruin themselves trying to keep up).
  • It’s flexible, so if anything changes (an ingredient is out of stock, or a menu item isn’t as popular as hoped) you can ‘pivot’ with minimal fuss.


A flexible and focused menu leads to a profitable (and far less stressful) venue for everyone – from the kitchen staff, to the front of house, to the management team.


So, how do you do it?


Often for chefs, one of the toughest things is creating and changing a menu. The aim is to balance taste, budget and speed (which is sometimes easier said than done). The key to finding that balance is learning to work your kitchen smarter, not harder.


First up: Reduce the size of your menu

For some customers, more choice leads to indecision. A simple, small menu is easier for everyone. Your customers will choose quickly, you won’t have to invest in as much produce and your chefs will be able to focus on quality over quantity.


A reduced menu can also make it easier to monitor stock levels and in turn lessen food waste. You could also consider using pouch packs to maximise your bin space and storage areas for a more organised kitchen.


Secondly: Change the way you choose your ingredients

There are a few things to consider here. Are you choosing out of season ingredients? This is a sure-fire way to increase costs. Even if you don’t want to re-print your menu with the season, you can work around this by offering ‘seasonal vegetables’ for example.


Also, have you spoken to your supplier about what’s in the market? We often have intel on what is available (especially with current delays in shipping!) so you can create a cost-effective menu.


Thirdly: Change the way you purchase those ingredients

Consider the volume of stock that you’re buying. Are you buying too much? Not enough? Too often? Is there a lot going to waste? Sometimes this is hard to assess, especially at the end of a week of busy service. Instead of trying to assess every single stock item, just focus on a few high-cost or regularly used ingredients and try to reduce costs on those. This may mean buying less frequently, and in bulk, for example. You could also consider buying in components you’ve typically made in house (like sauces, chutneys and grilled vegetables).


Last up: Have significant crossover between menu items

Instead of reducing margins by risking several expensive ingredients that are used in a single dish, design your menu in a way that some ingredients feature in more than one dish. This also means less waste, less prep and less equipment, which all means better profits (as well as better service for your customer).