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Designing Your Catering Menu

From food options to special accommodations, designing your catering menu can make or break your business.

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Could you imagine designing a restaurant dining room without making a plan? Without pricing interior decor and ambiance? Of course not! So why would you create a restaurant menu without planning? In addition to the look, from paper color to font size, it's important to consider a number of other factors when designing your menu.

Consider the flexibility of your menu. While many customers may enjoy a pre-designed menu for their events, others will be interested in picking and choosing, from hors d'oeuvres to aperitifs. When creating an event-specific menu, such as a wedding or corporate event menu, it's important to remember that just as food is individual, so are your customers. Each event will need to feel personal to each customer, which will develop a long-standing client relationship.

Another consideration is accommodation of special requests. Many caterers and restaurants fail to offer dishes for special tastes, such as food allergies or simple preferences. When designing your menu, consider offering special diet dishes, including gluten and wheat-free, soy-free, vegan, and vegetarian. Offering dietary accommodations will set you apart from your competitors and open your business to additional customers.

As each chef creates a menu, he or she considers the importance of variety throughout the menu. While many spices can be incorporated into different dishes, offering variety within those dishes, from meats to accompaniments, will set your menu apart. Many cuisines, including Mexican, Italian, and Indian, have strong flavors throughout while using different produce and meats. Think complimentary, but remember variety.

Finally, when designing a menu, remember to think about the menu from the client's perspective. You want to create a menu that's easy to read. Each dish should include a brief description of preparation and/or sides as well. Many patrons appreciate beverage suggestions to pair with their meals as well.

In this tough economy, it's important develop a restaurant "niche," setting yourself apart from your competitors. Seasonal and local food production is a hot trend within the restaurant industry right now, as are organics and eating sustainably. In designing your menu, consider locally produced food items. Many customers enjoy supporting businesses that are supporting the community.

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Written by: Jennifer Heigl

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