4 Food Development Blunders to AvoidAugust 12, 2014 By: Marcos Colón
For those involved in the food business, it's all about passion. Without it, you won't have the drive to create a successful culinary endeavor. However, having that passion is just one part of the equation and it doesn't guarantee that you won't come across hurdles when it's time to roll out a menu that A. caters to your passion, and B. will bring people through the door and back for more in the future. Rather than jumping into a food development plan blindly, there are some 'don'ts' you should avoid in order to make your process seamless and successful.
Don't stick to one concept for too long
We live in a day and age where versatility is key. Rather than sticking to one food concept for too long -- which can bore your customers to an extent -- try mixing things up and keeping them on their toes. For Kelvin Fernandez, an executive chef in New York City, this has always been a beneficial move. "Creating a versatile menu with different options keeps the guests coming back to try more things," Fernandez says. "I have been lucky enough to try four different cuisines in the past 10 years -- French, Italian, American and Latin." With extensive experience in the culinary world, including stops at Blend on the Water and the Strand Hotel in Manhattan, and competing on TV programs such as Cook Your Ass Off. "The biggest challenge is knowing your clientele," he says.
Don't cook what you love to cook
Everyone has a different palate and enjoys different dishes. Just because you're great at making a tuna casserole look like a dish that's served at a five-star establishment, doesn't necessarily mean that everyone coming into your establishment will enjoy it. Just as Chef Kelvin previously stated, knowing your clientele is key, so stay away from cooking what you love to cook and focus on what desired clientele will enjoy. "It might be amazing, but if you're serving foie gras and duck to [guests] that are not interested, no matter how great the dish is, it will fail," he says.
Don't focus on ingredients that are only used in one dish
We get it, you have a slew of ideas for a multitude of plates that will wow everyone! But you have to be smart about the development of these dishes, especially when it comes to ingredients. If you find yourself in a predicament where you have a slew of ingredients, only to find out that a majority of them are only being used on one to two dishes, then you'll find yourself in quite the pickle. "Having way too many items equals failure in high food cost and low profit," Fernandez says. "You need to be able to be versatile. For example, on my current menu we use corn three different ways and in two different dishes. Making a sweet corn soup, a puree for the salmon, and roasting and grilling corn for the lobster." He believes that following this tip will ultimately have a positive impact on your bottom line. "Being able to be versatile with your ingredients creates a low food cost menu, which leaves you with more profit," he says.
If you're catering to a late-night crowd, don't make your plates too big
There's no denying that everyone likes something to nibble on when they're out on the town for a drink. If your establishment fits this bill, then your plates shouldn't carry too much weight…literally. Focus on smaller items that are easier for your patrons to enjoy, even while they have a cocktail in hand. "You're looking to have about five to seven items that are easy to eat and mess-free because in a lounge-type setting, you need to think about your crowd having a drink in one hand and eating with the other," Fernandez says. "The dishes need to be simple, like sliders, skewers, and croquettes. [When it comes to change] keep the top three items on your menu and change and rotate the others constantly to develop new items."