Posted by Patrick Maness
You’ve decided you’re going to launch a self-service food option through your business and you’ve finalized your flow plan. Now there’s just one tiny little thing you still need to consider: What are you going to serve?
Your options here are as varied as your customers themselves, but there are some sound principles you can apply when creating a self-serve menu.
Know your audience. Is this a party you're catering or do you expect a professional, lunch crowd? The answer to this question is important when planning a menu, as these two groups will enjoy very different foods. The lunch crowd, for example, will be more interested in less-hearty, more conventional lunch fare, so choose something they can enjoy without making a mess of their work clothes.
Don't let your menu exclude anyone. You never want anyone to feel excluded by the food you offer, so make sure your menu has something for everyone. Create your signature offerings and then be sure to include vegetarian, gluten-free and diabetic-friendly options. This will prevent hurt feelings and give everyone in attendance a higher opinion of your work.
Choose foods that complement, rather than compete. You want people to have options to choose from, but too many options for the same type of food can leave other portions of a person's plate lacking. Create the opportunity for your guests to enjoy more — and purchase more — by focusing on foods that together make a well-rounded, healthy meal.
Support your bottom line with profitable food choices. Breads, noodle salads and pastas are inexpensive to create and your guests love them. It’s a win-win situation, so make sure your menu features plenty of these options. Including them will support your business and protect your margins, allowing you to offer more expensive food pairings.
Add variety to your prep requirements. If everything on your menu requires laborious preparation, then your willingness to recreate that menu every single day will dissolve quickly. Just as a variety of tastes and profit margins is important, so should your menu feature a variety of prep requirements. Incorporating this diversity into your setup allows you to start your day with those tedious, long-prep signature items and then add the final, easy-to-prepare complementary items at the very end, preserving freshness.
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