David's Menu Course

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Unit 1: Identify and Discuss the Importance of the 11 Truth-in-Menu Categories Established by the National Restaurant Association

The Problem:

  • Guests ordering an item off a menu by either its descriptive terminology or by a picture often receive the item NOT as described or pictured.

The Solution:

  • California led the way by creating legislation in 1974 to stop unscrupulous operators from misleading menu listings.
  • The legislation created involved 1000's of restaurants, both independent operators and chain restaurants being sued over misleading menu offerings.

The Response:

  • In response to California's legislation, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) conducted a menu review in the Washington D.C. area.
  • The NRA looked at 350 menus and found that everyone had some type of violation for a "Misrepresentation"
  • Some examples were:
85% that listed beef as "Prime" was not true
100% listed shrimp as "Fresh" when it was frozen
50% listed deli products as "Kosher" when it was not
  • Because of such inaccuracies the NRA prepared and adopted a "Accuracy in Menus Position Paper" in February 1977.
  • This is a guideline that most restaurants and food service operators follow when preparing menu items.

The Paper:

  • Identified 11 sections which foodservice operators use when describing menu items which are identified as Representation of:
  1. Quantity
  2. Quality
  3. Price
  4. Brand Names
  5. Product Identification
  6. Points of Origin
  7. Merchandising Terms
  8. Means of Preservation
  9. Food Preparation
  10. Verbal and Visual Presentation
  11. Dietary or Nutritional Claims

The 11 sections and what they mean:


Deals with Weight and Sizes
Weight - How much a menu item weighs - Example of a steak
If a steak is described as a 12 ounce NY Strip Steak is the 12 ounces before or after cooking?
BEFORE cooking because the accepted practice for a steak is the weight is declared before cooking because a steak will shrink during the cooking process

Size - There are "Official" size descriptions which classify a product - Example: Olives
Olives are sized from petite to super colossal. If your menu describes your salad as having "large" black olives then by the description used the salad needs "large" black olives and not "petite, small, or even extra large" olives.

Implied Meanings of Words - Also fall into this category - Example is a cup vs. a bowl of soup.
Why this is implied is because our guest knows that there is more product in a bowl than a cup without having to describe a bowl as a 12 ounce serving or a cup as an 8 ounce serving


Deals with "Grades" - which imply the Quality of each product used
Grades exist with a large amount of products used in the restaurant industry.
Example: Meat is graded as Prime, Choice, Select.
Prime is the best or top quality, then followed by choice then select.
Menu item that is labled as "Choice Sirloin of Beef" denotes that you use the grade of "Choice" so you cannot say or describe the beef as "Prime" because it is NOT the best grade of beef.

The Exception to the Rule:
There is an exception to the "Quality" category do you know what it is?
Prime Rib - because it is a long established, well-understood, accepted description of a cut of beef. The "primal" ribs, the 6th to 12th rib, which does not represent the grade quality unless USDA is used in conjunction with the description.


Includes such items as:
  1. Cover Charge
  2. Service Charge or
  3. Gratuity
MUST be appropriately brought to the guests attention
Extra charges for requests like: "All white meat" or "No-ice drinks" need to be brought to the guests attention at the time of ordering. WHY?
So the guest can decide if they want to continue with the request.
Why would a restaurant charge more for a request like no-ice in my drink?
Because the guest is getting more product without the ice which results in a selling price that is not correct.

Price also includes "Coupon or Premium Promotions"
If you use a coupon any restrictions MUST BE CLEARLY DEFINED
Examples of restrictions: Days the coupon can be used, what needs to be bought to use the coupon, when the coupon is valid until.
If the coupon or promotion involves a "Multi-Unit" Company then it needs to CLEARLY indicate which unit(s) are participating.

Brand Names:

If you advertise a product brand name then that product must be used
Some examples of Brand Names are:


Star-Kist Tuna

Ritz Crackers

Heinz Ketchup

Hellmann's Mayonnaise

Branded Condiments and Sauces
If you say you use a branded condiment like A-1 Steak sauce then that product MUST be used in the bottle.
A "trick" that is used is buying the A-1 steak sauce then when the bottle is empty refilling it with SYSCO brand steak sauce because it is cheaper to use.
This is a big problem not just with Truth-in-Menu laws but also with Sanitation requirements involved in a restaurant.

Product Identification:

Because of similarities substitutions are often made due to:
  1. Non-delivery
  2. Availability
  3. Price

When one of these situations occur it must be brought to the guests attention when they are ordering an item that is affected by one of these conditions.
Common substitutions are:
Maple Syrup Vs. Maple Flavored Syrup - Nothing taste or compares to real maple syrup to maple flavored syrup with 2% real maple syrup and high fructose corn syrup

Butter Vs. Margarine - Creamy, silky, smooth butter as compared to margarine which may not melt on a hot baked potato because of the oils used in them. In some cases butter is better for you than margarine because of all the chemicals used in making it.

Whipped Cream Vs. Whipped Topping - Whipped cream is exactly what it claims it is: Whipped Cream. Where as whipped topping is non-dairy but more widly used because of the price and ease of use.

Points of Origin:

Product is purchased from all over the world. Any product used MUST be substantiated by:
  1. The Product Itself
  2. Packing Labels
  3. Invoices or
  4. Purchase Specifications supplied by your Vendor
To prove the product is what it claims to be.

Some common Points of Origin are:

1) Idaho Potatoes better known as Russet Potatoes

2) Gulf Shrimp to be harvested from the Gulf of Mexico

3) Maine Lobster harvested from the coast of Maine

4) Alaskan King Crab which is very different from Florida Stone Crab

Geographic Names are used in a "Generic" sense which is widely accepted by the guest. Examples include:
  1. Russian Dressing - Did we travel to the former U.S.S.R. to purchase it?
  2. French Fries - Did we travel to France to get our fries? Remember what french fries were called a few years ago? Freedom Fries!
  3. English Muffins - Did we travel to England to get our muffins?
  4. New England or Manhattan Clam Chowder. Did we stay in the states for our chowder? What is the difference between New England and Manhattan Clam Chowder?

New England Clam Chowder is a cream based soup where Manhattan Clam Chowder is considered a clear base soup.

Merchandising Terms

MUST use caution when merchandising menu items.
Advertising Exaggerations are accepted as long as they don't mislead the guests.
Examples include statements such as:
"We serve the best gumbo in town."
This may be true because maybe your town had a gumbo contest and your establishment won the contest. So this phrase is NOT misleading the guest.
"We use only the finest beef" could be a phrase to cause concern.
As we learned earlier in "Quality" the best beef is labeled "Prime". If you use choice this phrase is misleading because you are NOT using the finest beef so caution needs to be applied.
We need to substantiate phrases like:
  1. Fresh daily - which means any item labeled this is made fresh daily and not made a day or two ago.
  2. Center Cut ham - Ham which is from the center cut.
  3. Milk-fed veal - is veal that is milk-fed.
  4. Low calorie - meets certain nutritional requirements to be considered a low calorie item.

Means of Preservation

Many accepted means of preserving food:
  1. Bottling
  2. Canning
  3. Chilling
  4. Dehydrating
  5. Freezing
Remember that Frozen shrimp are NOT Fresh shrimp. Yes, frozen shrimp were fresh when frozen but you are purchasing a frozen product not fresh so you can't describe frozen shrimp as fresh. We need to realize that they are two different products.
So here is where you need to be ACCURATE when using any of these Means of Preservation.

Food Preparation:

Many ways of preparing food:
  1. Broiled
  2. Baked
  3. Roasted
  4. Deep Fried
  5. Smoked
  6. Grilled
These methods play a Major Role in our guests menu choice. If a guest ordered the chicken dish becasue it is baked not fried then we need to make sure the chicken is baked. So more than anything ACCURACY IS A MUST!

Visual and Verbal Presentation:

If we use Wall Placards or pictures showing a meal or platter then that item should:
Be Portrayed with the Actual Contents with Accuracy
Visual Misrepresentations Examples Included:
  1. A shrimp cocktail where six shrimp are pictured but only five shrimp are served
  2. A plain bun is served when a poppy seed bun is pictured
  3. Sliced strawberries are used when whole strawberries are pictured

Verbal Misrepresentations Examples Include:
Mainly our service staff misleading our guests by what they claim for a menu item:
  1. When the service staff claim that we use sour cream and butter with the baked potato. When we use margarine and possible imitation sour cream. The service staff misled the guest into believing that we use something that we don't.

Dietary or Nutritional Claims:

If you claim a product is "Low Fat", "Low Calorie", or "Sugar Free" it must be supported by specific data.
The bottom line is to SELL and SERVE ONLY what the guest is going to get.
Remember it is the Ethical Thing To Do and if you don't
It is FRAUD and/or False Advertising.


Following the link below please read the following article. After reading the article you can see how important describing menu items is. Using the Descriptive Terminology Worksheet write descriptive terminology using Truth-in-Menu Guidelines.


Take the Self-Review Activity of Truth-in-Menu

File:Truth-in-Menu Self-Review Activity.pdf

Unit 2: Identify the Similarities and Differences that a Menu Plays from the Two Points of View of an Existing Establishment and a Brand New Establishment.


  • We, as menu writers, must understand that before attempting to write a new menu or add new items to an already existing menu we need to understand the capabilities and limits of the restaurant involved.
  • Also as menu writers we need to know that when starting a new restaurant everything begins with the menu including the layout, design, decor, theme, equipment and staffing of the new restaurant.
  • To continue with the discussion of the capabilities and limits of the restaurant involved we will look at this from two points of view:
1) That of the existing restaurant needing a menu change
2) That of a new establishment in the planning stage

The Existing Restaurant Needing a Menu Change:

  • When looking at the existing restaurant there are eight areas of consideration:
  1. Product Availability
  2. Cross-utilization of Products
  3. Selling Price
  4. Equipment Availability
  5. Physical Capabilities of the Station
  6. Product and Traffic Flow
  7. Staff Skill Levels
  8. Theme of the Restaurant

1) Product Availability:

  • When adding menu items all items need to be available on a year round basis. We DON'T place "seasonal" menu items on our permanent menu. This is because of lost sales of those items when they are not in season.
  • We still want to use seasonal items but they are marketed by use of:
Table Tents
Menu that look like tents which are place and left on the table
Which are additional inserts included as a part of a menu
Special Boards
Brought to the table with permanent menus then removed after the order is placed

2) Cross-utilization of Product

  • What is important here is when developing any new menu items you should try and use products that are already on hand.
  • When you cross-utilize products you avoid large increases in the number of items carried in inventory.
  • The more items carried in inventory:
Decreases Cash Flow
Because we need to remember that inventory is money and the more product we purchase the more money we are tying up in inventory
Increases the Chance of:
Theft of product from our employees
Thinking we will never miss the product because we have so much in inventory
Waste from ordering too much product and having to throw it away
Two areas of special concern for waste include:
1) Produce
2) Bread Products

3) Selling Price

  • It is most important that any new menu items added MUST NOT EXCEED THE PRICE RANGE OF THE PRESENT MENU
  • Any new item added can't exceed the "Willingness of the Guest to Pay" . All of our guests have a preconceived price range in mind when they enter your restaurant. Any new item priced higher than this willingness will not sell because you have out-priced it with the other items.

4) Equipment Availability:

  • When desigining new menu items you need to look at your whole kitchen and understand what equipment can produce the new menu items.
  • You need to look at the whole kitchen including:
    • Storage areas:
1) Refrigeration
2) Freezers
3) Dry Storage
To make sure you have room for any new product you need to order after doing your cross-utilization of products when developing new menu items.

5) Your Production Area which includes the Physical Capabilities of:

1) The equipment at the station
2) The station itself:

1) The equipment at the station
  • If it can handle the increased volume then consider adding the new item
  • If it cannot handle the increased volume then you must not use it because your equipment cannot keep up to the demand.

A couple of questions are:
1) What will happen to the equipment if you keep pushing it past its physical capabilities?

  • It will eventually break down - usually during your dinner rush on the weekends.

2) What are the physical capabilities of my equipment? This information is usually found:

  • In the equipment's Specification Book usually under Optimum Conditions.

2) The station itself:
  • A station of 1 is now a station of 2 or 3 because of the incerased demand.
  • Is the station big enough to accommodate the added personnel then we also have to remember
  • How does the personnel at the station handle the:
1) Increased Volume
2) Stress at Peak Times
3) Work With Others at the Station
  • These are all factors that have to be considered with the work station

  • Unfortunately Equipment Availability is the most often overlooked area of consideration.
  • When this happens the intent of the menu item is reversed:
Instead of gained sales
We have lost sales because we overlooked our equipment, the station, and the personnel at the station and we cannot produce the new menu items.

6) Product and Traffic Flow

  • When adding new menu items we need to understand how the product and the traffic flow of that item will affect the current product and traffic flow of the restaurant.
  • All new items added must be designed so our staff's movement and there movement with the product move in such a way that they avoid:
1) Cross-traffic
2) Backtracking
  • These are designed to avoid our staff from bumping into each other.

7) Staff Skill Level:

  • This comes down to one thing - You Can't Exceed the Skill Level of Your Staff
  • This includes both the Back-of-the-House which includes your line cooks and chefs and
  • Back-of-the-House: If you want to add sauté items on your menu and you have nobody in the kitchen who can sauté then you need to train or hire someone who can.
  • The Front-of-the-House which includes your service staff
  • Front-of-the-House: If you are considering adding items which are to be finished at the table, such as a flambé, then you need to train your servers on how to properly flambé so you don't have your service staff burning down your restaurant.

8) Theme:

  • You need to take into account the existing theme of the restaurant and make sure any new menu item reflects the current theme of the restaurant.
  • If you are an Italian Restaurant you need to keep your theme in mind and any new menu item added needs to reflect this theme.
  • It's important to remember that the best intentions of adding a new menu item that may not reflect the current theme of the restaurant can destroy the original restaurant's theme.
  • However, if you feel strongly enough about a new menu item which necessarily doesn't fit with your current theme, we have to remember that we "Cannot Be All Things To All People". This means that no matter how hard we try we will never please everyone and if you feel strongly enough about a new menu item and it fits all the parameters of the current restaurant then use that item.

Conclusion for Existing Restaurants

  • You need to do a "WALKTHROUGH" of all new items and see if they meet the established parameters of the areas of consideration for the restaurant.
  • If the new menu items works then use it
  • If the new menu item does not work then ditch it so you don't set yourself up for failure.

Now let's look at The New Restaurant in the Planning Stage

  • With a new operation what becomes the planning tool?
  • The MENU - Everything revolves around it!
  • The menu helps us determine:
The Theme and Decor
Help Select Equipment
Help Hire Staff

1) Theme and Decor:

  • Once the style of the restaurant is determined then you can plan your menu
  • Theme and decor must match your chosen menu items. They need to go hand-in-hand with each other. I would not expect an Italian Restaurant to have General Tso Chicken on the menu and to have the dining room decorated in a Chinese theme. It does not go hand-in-hand with the theme of the Italian Restaurant. I would expect traditional Italian dishes such as Lasagna, Chicken Parmesan, or Osso Buco with the decor of the dining room tastefully decorated reflecting the theme of Italy.

2) Selection of Equipment:

  • This is one of the biggest most crucial steps when starting a new restaurant because equipment is the single biggest major start-up expense. Because of the cost of equipment it is imperative that we buy exactly what we need. In order to do this we need to review each item on the menu and determine what pieces of equipment it touches when it is being produced from a raw state to a finished product.

  • Example of a Hamburger - What equipment is needed?
1) Refrigerator - To keep the product's temperature safe
2) Dry Storage - For hamburger buns and condiments
3) Griddle or Broiler - The means by which you are going to cook the hamburger
4) Plate Shelf - Need clean plates to place the hamburger on for service
5) Pick-up Station - For the line cooks to place the hamburger on for the waitstaff to pick it up for service. Also the pick-up station includes a heating lamp so the product doesn't get cold waiting for the waitstaff to pick it up
6) Wait Station - For the waitstaff to have a place for condiments, extra silverware and napkins when our guests need them
7) Dishwasher - One of the most important pieces of equipment because without it how can we have clean plates. Also one of the most expensive pieces of equipment ranging anywhere from $15,000-$200,000 depending on the capacity of the machine
8) Then all the smallwares included with the hamburger which includes but not limited to: spatula, tongs, scales, and a cart to move the product

  • To help us determine the sizes and pieces of equipment needed we have three factors to consider when buying equipment:
1) Number of different items produced on each piece of equipment
A griddle that is going to be used to cook a hamburger, steak, chicken breast, pork chop, and a fish steak
2) Capacity of the dining room (Number of seats X's estimated turnovers)
Our dining room has 100 seats we turn it over three times who many meals are we preparing?
3) Projected sales mix of the menu.
Sales mix is what and how many items we plan on selling in a category during your dining period

  • Who determines sales mix and how do they determine it?
The Guest by simply ordering their menu items!

Product and Traffic Flow:

  • We looked at these with the existing restaurant but they even mean more with a new restaurant.
  • When designing the new restaurant we need to design our product and traffic flow with no cross-overs and no backtracking. If these are designed into the restaurant then that problem is going to haunt us until we fix it. So a few hours of planning a good flow for product and traffic will result in a lifetime of worry free cross-over and backtracking.
  • Lets define Product and Traffic Flow:
    Product Flow - All foodstuff necessary to produce an item from RAW STATE to FINISHED PRODUCT and the paths it takes through the restaurant.
    Traffic Flow - Concerns itself with our people and their movement with the product.
  • Generally a good product flow means a good traffic flow but you still need to spend the time and make sure you have a smooth flow.

3) Staffing:

  • Using the menu you can:
1) Determine the staff skill level needed to produce the menu
2) Develop Job Descriptions - Which will help you watch out for:
  • Over Qualified and Over Paid People
  • Who eventually get bored with their position and possible start to tell you how to run your business
  • Under Qualified People:
  • Which will hurt your business more because of incompetency on their part

Conclusion for a New Establishment

  • Proper preparation is an integeral part of menu planning. We have to take ALL factors into consideration:
1) Equipment
2) Physical Capabilities
3) Product and Traffic Flow
4) Staff Skill Level
5) Theme and Decor
  • And make sure they are all planned out before going to construction.
  • When they are all planned out we will have a smooth-running, but more importantly a profitable operation.
  • However we have to keep in mind our most important part of the whole menu project:
Because if our guest does not like our menu or restaurant and they don't come back for a return visit then we have gained nothing for all our hard work.


Take the Self-Review for Unit #2

File:Unit 2 Self-Review with Answers.pdf

Unit 3: Identify and Discuss: the Five Menu Covers used; the Three Most Commonly Used Menu Folds; and What and Where Prime Space is located on each fold.


  • When you are starting to focus on the actual layout and printing of the menu we need to use our:
  • Imagination and
  • Creative Talents
  • To Design a Menu That Reflects Your Restaurants Personality
  • However when designing your menu we have to remember that there is a limitation to the layout and printing. Do you know what that limitation is?
  • You can have all the imagination and creativity in the world to design a menu that fits your restaurant to a tee. But if you don't have the money to produce the menu you designed then what good have you done? So you need to know and keep in mind how much money is budgeted for the project.
  • Now that we understand what the limitation is we now need to shift our thinking and answer the question of "What is the first consideration when designing the menu?"


  • Covers are our first consideration because it will tell the guest WHO WE ARE!
  • The Guest will be able to get an idea of our:
  • Theme
  • Decor
  • Cooking Style and
  • Price Range
  • The Five Most Common Types of Covers to Choose from are:
  1. Padded
  2. Custom Design
  3. Insert
  4. Laminated
  5. Paper
  • Of these five which ones do you think are the most expensive?
  • Padded and Custom Design

Padded Menu Covers

  • Made of Either:
  • A Light Board or Very Heavy Duty Cardboard
  • Filled with a Material to Give it a Padded Effect
  • Then Covered with a Plastic Material Resembling Leather
  • Or Real Leather if you have the Money
  • Covers are quite heavy - in weight as compared to the other covers because of the materials used in the making of them
  • Printing on a Padded Cover is LIMITED to a:
  • Inside of the menu consist of Heavy Linen-Type Paper
  • Held in place by a cord or binder which runs through the center fold
  • Covers are quite DURABLE and should last a LONG TIME!

Custom Covers

  • Have a Special Design or Shape rather than the typical Rectangle
  • No Limitations on using your Imagination
To Create a Design to COMPLEMENT your Restaurants THEME!
  • Why are custom covers more expensive than the norm?
Because of the CUTTING PROCESS Involved in Producing Your Menu
  • Some Designs Include:
  • Sports Themes
Baseballs, Footballs, Basketballs
  • Shapes:
Circles, Triangles, Hexagons
  • Specialty Designs:
  • Surf Boards, Guitars, Album Jackets

Insert-type Covers

  • These Covers are Much Less Expensive and More Widely Used
  • Follow the same Principle as Padded Covers:
The Cover is Used OVER and OVER Again
While the Insert is Changed
  • What is the Major Difference Between the Padded and Insert-type Cover?
The Material Used in Producing Them

Laminated Cover

  • These Covers are Very Popular in Informal Settings such as:
  1. Coffee Shops
  2. Diners
  3. Luncheonettes
  • The question is "What is lamination?"
It is a process where your menu is covered in a clear plastic coating which protects it from getting soiled
If it gets dirty you simply wipe it off.
  • We have to remember that the process of lamination adds to your total expense of printing the menu.
  • Another question which comes to mind is "What is the draw back to a laminated menu?"
You can't make changes to the menu because of the lamination protecting it. You need to re-produce the whole menu for changes as long as you have the money for it.

Paper Menus

  • Becoming quite "Common Place" because of the "Low Cost" in printing them
  • Makes menu changes easier to accomplish because it is
Relatively inexpensive to make minor changes
  • Can be used as
A Give Away to our Guests for Advertisement Reasons
  • If become soiled or greasy
Just Throw it Away

Selection of a Cover

  • Should be based on your type of:
  1. Restaurant
  2. Style of Service
  3. Price Range of your restaurant
  • Fine Dining Restaurant would probably use a
Elegant Padded Cover
  • Fast Food
Would probably use a Paper Cover for Give-a-way Purposes.
  • The style of your cover MUST TIE together your
Theme and Reflect Your Decor

Layout of the Menu

  • Once you have chosen your cover you need to make sure your menu:
So the Guest Orders a Complete Meal

  • The Three Most Common Menu Folds are:

1) One-page Menu

2) Two-page Menu

3) Three-page Menu

Prime Space

  • Is defined as: "The spot our eyes first hit on a menu"
  • Research has shown that Guests will
Order what they see first
  • This makes Prime Space an
  • We place a Popular GROSS PROFIT Item here - One that we really want to sell
  • With Prime Space we don't
If you are known for a particular dish that is unique to your restaurant you don't use Prime Space to market this item
  • Use of Boxes and Borders should be used in conjunction with Prime Space
  • Boxes and Borders can be used elsewhere on the menu
  • Rule of Thumb with Boxes and Borders:
No More Than 3 Per Page
More than 3 Per Page Diminishes their Effect

Location of Prime Space with the Three Menu Folds

  • The One-page Menu Prime Space is Located:
  • One-Page Menu:
Upper Center of the Back Page
  • Two-Page Menu:
Middle of the Right-hand Page
  • Three-Page Menu:
Upper Third on the Center Page
  • Let's take a look at where prime space is located on each menu fold by following the link below



After reading the article below treat yourself and go out to dinner for the sake of research. While out to dinner after you are handed the menu carefully study the designed and see if it is designed attract sales or just put together without much thought.


Watch the video below for additional considerations when choosing a menu cover.


Take the self-review activity

File:Unit 3 Self-Review.pdf

Unit 4 Menu Review Activity

  • Print the Menu Rating Worksheet and rate one of the following on-line menus using the rating criteria sheet