Leyla and I take great pride in our menu offerings, which we carefully craft to be mouthwatering and flavorful, as well as good-for-you and socially conscious. We use locally grown, organic ingredients, hormone-free meats, and yeast-free breads. When we are considering adding a new dish to our menu, we know it needs to fit in with these themes of our restaurant and live up to what our customers have come to expect from Café 21.
Here are some of the things we consider as we add dishes to our menu:
1) We stay true to ourselves. We always seek to have creative offerings, but we keep them within our wheelhouse – local, organic, gluten-free, and using all-natural meats.
2) We stay inspired. We pay attention to industry trends, keep an eye on new local partners we can work with, and see what new restaurants in the area offer on their menus.
3) We think about our existing menu, and what might supplement it nicely. Our considerations include what is in season and able to be locally sourced, how many total menu items we went to offer, how many starters we have (and whether they are designed to be shared or individually served), how many entrees we have, how many different types of protein we want to offer, etc.
4) We think about the dishes on our existing menu that we may want to swap out. We want to keep certain items that are customer favorites on the menu, so after we have a broad sense of what we want the menu to look like, we need to think about how many menu items we want to keep the same, and how many new ones we want to introduce.
5) We develop the new dishes. This is the fun part! Developing each new dish includes writing recipes for consistency and to help us calculate costs, and descriptions so that our cooks and servers understand the items.
6) We calculate how much it costs to make each dish. This calculation includes the cost of the ingredients, but also things like equipment, delivery, changing food prices, labor, preparation time, overhead, and more.
7) We get feedback from friends and loyal customers. We will sometimes let our friends and frequent customers try out our new items before we permanently add them to the menu. We ask them for their feedback on each item’s appearance, taste, and preparation to determine which items might be most popular.
8) We decide which items make the cut to be added to the menu. Once we’ve decided which items these are, we will sometimes offer them as specials before they are permanently added to the menu. This allows both our kitchen staff and servers to learn more about the items.
9) We have our staff taste each new item. This helps them increase their knowledge about the new menu items.
10) We offer the new items! We roll out the new menu items on the designated day. With all of our advance preparation complete, this is a day of excitement and pleasure for us.
These are the many steps that go into adding new menu items to our menu. Creating new menu items involves a lot of thought, research, attention to detail, creativity, and innovation. It’s amazing when everything comes together, and we introduce a new menu item that becomes a hit!