One of the most basic elements to a successful food and beverage operation is good menu planning. Menu planning plays an important role in the control, quality and standardization of the sub-details that constitute production criteria such as providing convenience in the selection and purchase of raw materials, the correct utilization of materials, saving time, reducing wasted food and making accurate cost calculations.
Therefore in order to create a plan an accurate analysis of the menu must first be done. In the first stage of this analysis the potential and existing customers, location, equipment, production and presentation areas, required personnel and their level of productivity, restaurant types and service system and last but not least the financial resources and plan which are taken into account during this stage play an important role. Knowledge and experience is needed to make a plan according to the rules. Some of the elements of knowledge are anticipating the customer’s expectations, the characteristics of foods, seasonal requirements and being able to prepare balanced meals. While preparing a menu the seasonal features should be taken into account. The effects of food on the human body varies according to seasons. During the hot days of summer fried foods, spicy foods with sauces, greasy foods and foods with flour are harmful to health.
Since these types of food are not going to be in demand from the customers who want to serve them in the right season, they will cause financial losses in the operation. The menu should include foods that are in season because all foods are fresher, more nutritious and more affordable when they are in season.
In our present day it is possible to find almost every fruit and vegetable in every season. Due to the development of some transport and modern storing techniques the value of seasonal food is being damaged. Rather than using unripe, out of season foods at expensive prices it is more logical to work more efficiently with foods that are plentiful and flavorful in their season and therefore more advantageous from a price perspective. Generally hotels and restaurants make changes in their menu twice a year. These are winter and summer menus. It is clear that making changes in menus according to the foods that are in season is beneficial.
A passage season. Usually changes are not made to menus in this season, however if there are regional products they can be added to a corner of the menu.
The season of freshness and liveliness. This is a season much anticipated. The wide variety and bounty of products in this season indicates to the chef that it is time to make a change. At the same time the heat of the summer season changes the eating habits of customers and directs them towards lighter summery foods. This should be taken into account when planning the menu.
The hot hor d’ouvres of winter are replaced with cold ones. Vegetable dishes with olive oil are prepared. Fish: the fish that are available in the summer are prepared differently. In place of fish with sauce and steamed fish, fish is grilled.
Meat dishes in sauces are reduced and more roasts and grilled meats are included.
When it comes to summer vegetable dishes come to mind. Aubergines, beans, peas, etc. should definitely be included in the summer menu.
Salads, which are the symbol of freshness, are the most important element of a summer menu. There must be several different types of salad in every menu.
Fruits become ripe with the arrival of summer. In place of the winter desserts various desserts and salads made with summer fruits (fruit tarts and pies) should be prepared to lighten the menu.
This is the season of hunting and mushrooms. A more original food list can be created by adding some game meats that are available in this season to the menu. At the same time the mountain mushrooms (kanlıca, ayköş, cincile, etc.) must not be forgotten.
The season for seafood. Once the weather has cooled and winter has arrived menus need changing. Customers start preferring more sustaining and energy providing meals.
A few cold hors d’ouvres can be left on the menu but some hot hors d’ouvres should be added. For example, pastries, pizzas, baked items, etc. Soups should also be part of the winter menu.
The winter season is when fish are at their most plentiful. A number of different types of seafood enter the menu in this period. Depending on the way they are cooked a number of different dishes with sauces could be made with fish like steamed fish, etc.
In the winter any kind of meat can be prepared: kebabs, stews, sauce covered dishes, etc. Vegetables; instead of expensive summer vegetables winter vegetables should be used. For example, cabbage, potatoes, leeks, carrots, etc.
If possible salads should be prepared with products that are in season. For example: cabbage, beets, celery, carrots, etc.
Desserts and cakes:
All varieties of Turkish desserts and classical desserts could be included in the menu. Also cakes, tarts and pies made with seasonal fruit could be included in the menu. A certain type of menu is used in restaurants and this menu is changed according to the season.
The types of menus used in hotels or catering companies:
Cocktail party menu, Diet menu, Cocktail prolong menu, Fixed menu, Brunch menu, fast breaking menu,
Pre-dawn fasting menu, Open buffet menu, Room service menu, Tea menu, Breakfast menu, A la carte menu
The food groups used in hotels or catering companies:
Group One Foods /Main Course
Large Pieces of Meat Dishes ( Roast), Small Pieces of Meat Dishes (sauté), Meatballs (İzmir Meatballs), Meat and Vegetable Dishes (ratatouille with meat), Chicken (Chicken Schnitzel), Stuffed and wrapped vegetables with meat (Stuffed courgette with meat),
Legumes with Meat Dishes (Chickpeas with Meat Stew), Fish (Steamed Bonito), Egg Dishes (Menemen)
Group Two Foods/Supplemental Food
Soups, Pilafs, Dishes Prepared with Olive Oil, Macaronis, Pastries
Group Three Foods /Completing Foods Salads, Desserts, Compotes, Desserts, Fruit, Yogurt ‘Cacık’ (a dish made with yogurt, cucumber and mint), ‘Ayran’ (diluted yogurt drink), ‘Piyaz’ (haricot bean salad)
Menu Planning is the most important stage in mass food services. What needs to be paid attention to in planning a menu:
- The energy and nutrition requirements of the group being served
- The health status of people and other special circumstances
- Eating habits and preferences
- The budget reserved for kitchen expenditures
- The number of people that will eat
- The state of the tools and equipment in the kitchen
- The number and qualifications of the personnel working in the kitchen
- The climate and geographical features of the region
- The season
- Which meal of the day it is (lunch, dinner)
- Storing conditions
- Sufficiency of serving equipment
What needs to be paid attention to menu planning;
- It is more suitable for there to be simple dishes on the menu because plain, well cooked food that is presented nicely is almost always preferred to heavily decorated and complex food. Complicated food that is hard to identify usually gives the impression of leftover food being reused. Including specials in a menu that has been prepared plainly can enrich the menu.
- There should be foods that are prepared differently from one another on the menu (fried, steamed, boiled). Food that is cooked in the same way makes the menu less productive.
- Spices and sauces that provide similar flavor to foods should not be included in the same menu.
- Color coordination should be taken notice of in a menu. Example: It is not right for dishes only made with red sauces to be included in the same course. The colors of the dishes should be in harmony and balance with each other.
- The textures of the food in the menu should be different from one another. Ex: Spinach and chard or lentil and ‘ezogelin’ soup should not be on the menu the same day.
- The appearance of dishes should be different from one another. Ex: Lamb Stew and Beef Goulash should not be served in the menu on the same day.