7 Dos and Don’ts of Menu Development

Make over your menu with these tips.


Even the best menus need a makeover from time to time. Sometimes a chef wants to try something new. Sometimes diners aren’t responding as positively to certain menu items as a chef hoped they would. Sometimes seasonal changes make a new menu necessary. Whatever the case, the following dos and don’ts can help chefs with their menu development.

Chef Michael Brown (4)
Michael C. Brown

Do bring personality to the menu. A chef’s unique voice should shine through in their menu, especially if he is working in a restaurant. “I see many chefs following the crowd,” says Chef Michael C. Brown, Executive Chef of Barrel Republic and Jalisco Cantina in San Diego, California. “They have too many trendy items and not enough original items. Each restaurant concept should push its own boundaries and find its own uniqueness.”

Don’t forget equipment. Chefs may have the best, tastiest ideas for dishes, but if they don’t have the equipment necessary to execute them, it won’t matter. As a result, they should always create menus with what equipment they already have — or what they might need — in mind to make the dishes work.

Do consider vendors. Since the availability of quality products will play a huge role in the success of a menu, chefs should consult their vendors to ensure that they can deliver the ingredients chefs will need for the new menu, during the days they will need them.

Lisabet Summa
Lisabet Summa

Don’t overdo it. Less can be more when it comes to creating an effective menu, especially for chefs who are new to menu development. “Young chefs will always err on the side of making a new menu too large. In an effort to please and impress, they aim too high,” says Lisabet Summa of West Palm Beach, Florida, co-owner of Big Time Restaurant Group. “Making a menu too large is cumbersome. It creates too much prep that may be hard for the kitchen crew to handle.”

Do ensure staff members can make the menu items. Chefs should be sure to create menu items that their staffs either already know how to execute or can be easily taught how to make. A menu is useless if members of the chef’s team can’t prepare the dishes on it.

Don’t ignore cost. As chefs develop new dishes for their menu, it’s important for them to price out each ingredient to ensure their vision makes sense financially. If they work in restaurants, they should think about a proposed price they would sell the dish for and whether or not it’s in line with what their customers are likely to pay.

Chef Christian Kruse
Christian Kruse

Do be patient. Creating a great menu can take some time, so chefs shouldn’t feel pressured to finish quickly. “It’s a process that takes time to develop. Some of the best chefs take days, weeks, even months to finally decide what is going to be on the menu,” says Chef Christian Kruse of Vergennes Laundry by CK in Vergennes, Vermont. “Trial and error. Test test test. Don’t put items on the menu until you feel confident that if you were to walk into a restaurant, you would order the item and be happy with it.”