Menu compilation

The Layout – Sample

Sample Menu Paulaner

Sample Menu Hacker Pschorr

The Menu in General

A menu or a bill of fare is a list of prepared dishes of food, which are available to a customer.


The compiling of a menu is one of the most important jobs of a caterer and there are a number of factors that must be taken into consideration before any menu is written. The aim is to give the customer what he wants and not what the caterer thinks the customer wants. In general, it is better to offer fewer dishes of a good standard rather than having a wide choice of dishes of mediocre quality.

It is necessary to make certain that menu terms are expressed accurately so that the customer receives exactly what is stated on the menu.

For example, Pate Maison must really be home – made pate, not factory – made. If Fried Fillet of Sole are offered on the menu, then more than one must be offered and the fish must be sole, and if an 8 oz rump steak is stated on the menu as the portion size, then it must be 8 oz raw weight.

If the sole is advertised as “fried” and the steak as “grilled” then these processes of cooking should be applied; if the soles are stated to be Dover soles and the steak as rump steak then the named food must be served. Likewise if the sole is states to be served with a sauce tartare and the steak with béarnaise sauce then the sauce should be correct and accurate.

The description on the menu should give an indication as appropriate of the quality, size, preparation, and composition of the dish.

Kind of menu

It must be clearly understood what kind of menu is required, whether a special party menu, table d’hôte or à la carte.

  • Special party menu – these are menus for banquets and parties of all kinds.
  • Table d’hôte – this is a set menu forming a complete meal at a set price. A choice of dishes may be offered at all courses; the choice and number of dishes will usually be limited.
  • A la carte – this is a menu with all the dishes individually priced. The customer can therefore compile his own menu. A true à la care dish should be cooked to order and the customer should be prepared to wait for this service.

Kind of meal

It is necessary to know it the menu is required breakfast, luncheon, tea, supper or for a special function.

Kind of establishment/type of people

The type of establishment will have to be considered as well as the type of guests to be present at a meal, particularly at special parties, can sometimes affect the choice of foods. The caterer may be asked to produce ad dinner menu for a special party. Menus will vary for the following examples:

  • Luxury hotel
  • First class restaurant
  • PubCountry club
  • Canteen
  • Café
  • Young people
  • Heavy steel worker
  • Pensioners
  • Football players
  • American students

In each case of the above groups of people and/or establishments there are certain foods which would suit one group but not necessarily the other.

The season of the year

If menus have to be compiled a long time in advance of the actual date of production, the season of the year should be considered –

  • Because of the weather – it may be hot, cold or mild and certain dishes, which would be acceptable in hot weather would be most unsuitable in cold weather and vice versa.
  • Because of foods in season, e.g. asparagus should be included in menus where possible, as they are usually in good supply, of food quality and a reasonable price.
  • Special dishes for certain days or a time of the year should be considered, e.g. for example, turkey at Christmas or Guinness at St. Patrick’s Day.

The capability of the kitchen staff

The capability of the cooks should be considered. There are many excellent chefs, male and female, whose training is such that they can cope with simple dishes but who might be at a loss if asked to produce highly complicated foreign fare. On the other hand, if a staff of well-trained cooks, capable of a good standard of international cookery, is available, they should be given a chance to produce dishes that can express their skill and pride of craftsmanship.

Size and equipment of the kitchen

The type of kitchen should be considered – how large? How small? And what large – scale equipment is available such as stoves, steamers, hot plates etc. a good cook will usually manage to produce a required meal somehow despite of any shortcomings of space or equipment. Nevertheless, the writer of menus should be aware of such deficiencies and be cautious of putting on dishes that might be difficult to produce because of shortages. Care should be taken to see that the method of cooking is not repeated, otherwise certain pieces of equipment can be overloaded, for example steamer, friture.

Capabilities of service staff

The person who serves the meal should be considered. If the standard of the waiter or waitress is of the highest order then a high standard of well-dressed and garnished dishes can be used because the caterer can be sure that the prepared food will be correctly shown to the customer and that it will be transferred to the customer’s plate in a neat, presentable fashion. If the waiter, waitress or server are untrained , care should be taken in the selection of dishes and only those dishes suitable for easy serving selected.

Size and equipment of dining-room

The type of dining-room and its equipment have something to be taken into account. The china in some catering establishments needs to e considered, particularly if it is coloured or highly patterned, as either factor can affect the appearance of certain foods.

The size of silver dishes needs to be considered when planning menus. This is important when a well-garnished dish such as Filet de Boeuf Bouquetiere is planned which, if dressed on dishes that are too small, would risk losing is presentation value.

The amount of china and silver must be taken into account if a menu of several courses is required. Operating a five-course menu with only sufficient china and silver for three courses can raise problems which would upset the smooth running of the meal.

Price of the menu

The proposed charge per head is obviously an important factor to consider when selecting food for any menu. When the caterer is asked to produce, for example, a meal to sell at £ 1 per head he cannot consider expensive foods such as oysters, fresh salmon, game, asparagus, etc. Similarly, if asked to produce a meal for a good price, say over £ 5, then he should offer good value for the price charged. A useful working rule with regard to the cost of food for a meal is to see that the food cost does not exceed 40% of the selling price. For example, if the cost of the food per head for a meal is 50p, then the suggested selling price would be (50p x 100) / 40 = £ 1.25


When considering foods for a menu, it is sound policy to think of any foods in season together with the full range of part-prepared and ready-prepared foods. Although in these days of deep-freeze storage many foods are available all the year round there are still items which, when in season, are plentiful, of good flavour and a reasonable price, for example strawberries, asparagus, herrings, scallops.

If large stocks of food are held, care should be taken, where possible, to use foods on the menu which are already in store, before ordering fresh supplies. This can help to avoid wastage of food and, of course, money.

The cold room or refrigerator should be inspected to see if there are any cooked foods that may be incorporated into menus. This is an important point and one that the experienced caterer makes full use of, as there many ways in which cooked foods can be used to produce or help to produce attractive dishes. For examples, a good hors d’oeurier can use almost any item of cooked food.

Food selected for a menu should be easy to obtain locally. Special foods are sometimes difficult to obtain at certain times of the year in some parts of the country. It is bad practice to offer customers particular dishes before checking that they are readily available.

If the customer has any special wishes, the good caterer should always do his best to comply with them.


This particularly important when compiling special party menus, and the following points should be considered:

Repetition of ingredients

Never repeat the basic ingredients on one menu.

For example, if mushrooms, tomatoes, peas, bacon, etc., are used in one course of a menu then they should not reappear in any other course of the same menu.


Mushroom Soup

Fillet of Sole Bone-Femme

Casseroled Chicken Grandmère

Mushroom and Bacon Savoury

(repetition of mushrooms )

Tomato Salad

Steak Pie

Brussel Sprouts; Sauté Potatoes

Dutch Apple Tart

(repetition of pastry)

Repetition of colour

Where possible avoid repetition of colour. Example:

Celery Soup

Fricassée of Veal

Buttered Turnips; Creamed Potatoes

Meringue and Vanilla Ice CreamTomato Soup

Goulash of Veal

Vichy Carrots; Marquise Potatoes

Peach Melba

Examples of a menu with repetition of both an ingredient and colour (peas and green):

Purée St. Germain

Darne de Saumon Grillé; Sauce Vert

Noisette d’Agneau Clamart

Gooseberry Fool

Repetition of words

Avoid repeating the same words on a menu. Examples:

Crème Portugaise

Carré d’Agneau à la Methe

Purée d’Epinards à la Crème

Pommes Boulangère

Fraise à la Crème

Overall balance of a menu

If many courses are to be served, care should be taken to see that they vary from dishes of a light nature to those of a more substantial nature and finish up with light dishes. In the case of a meal consisting of two or three meat courses, a rest may be made in the middle of the meal when a sorbet (a well-flavoured, lightly frozen water-ice designed to cleanse the palate) can be served; then a fresh start to the meal can be made with the roast. Examples:


Melon Frappe

Consommè Royal

Filets de Sole d’Antin

Escalope de Ris de Veau aux Pointes d’Asperges

Filet de Boeuf Bouquetière

Sorbet au Grand Marnier

Caneton d’Aylesbury RôtiSalada Mimosa

Soufflé Vanilla

Paillettes au Parmesan

Texture of courses

Regard should be given to the texture of courses; some food should be soft, some should require chewing, crunching, biting, some should be swallowed and so on.

Example of varied texture menu:

Crème Dubarry

Escalope de Veau Viennoise

Petits pois au Beurre; Pommes Marquise

Flan aux Pommes

Examples of ad menus:

Cauliflower Soup

Irish Stew

Buttered Peas; Mashed Potatoes

Semolina Pudding


Fried Scallops

Veal Escalope

Fried Auergine; Sauté Potatoes

Apple Fritters


If strong seasonings like onion, garlic or pungent hers such as thyme, sage or bay leaf are used, ensure that they are not repeated in more than one course.


If different sauces are served on one menu the foundation of the sauces should vary, e.g. demi glace, velouté, tomato, butter thickened, arrowroot or cornflower thickened.


Garnishes should be correct and they should not be repeated. Potatoes should only be named on a menu once, but they may be used in moderation on other courses; for example, pommes duchesse may be piped around a dish of fish. Pommes parisienne, noisette or olivette may be used to help lightly garnish an entrée or light meat course on a menu where two or three meat courses are being served.

Food values

When a customer selects from an à la carte or table d’hôtel menu the composition of the meal is the customer’s own responsibility. When a set meal is offered for a special party or banquet the menu is usually more than adequate to fulfil the nutritional needs. Special attention should be paid, however, to the nutritional balance of meals for people engaged in light or heavy work. The manual worker will require more substantial food than the office worker. Meals served to school children, meals served in hospitals, hostels, homes for invalids or homes of the aged all need thought on nutritional balance. It is usual to prepare such menus a week or two in advance, and it necessary to see that the food provided over the period is satisfactory from the point of food value.


This is a most important factor to consider in the presentation of food. The sensible use of colour will always help the eye-appeal of a dish. If it is sometimes necessary to use a little artificial colouring in order to finish certain foods correctly, care must be taken to see that these colours are used in moderation. Deep vivid colouring of any food should be avoided; the aim should be to use natural tints.

If a drab-looking main dish is being served, the careful use of a colourful garnish can greatly improve the presentation.

Plate appeal is a term which refers to the appearance of a course when it is served on a plate. The attractive appearance of each course is essential to the successful meal, and foods such as carrot, tomato, peas, watercress, parsley, truffle, oranges, cherries, etc., can give colour to the dullest coloured dishes. For example, a sprig of watercress with a dish of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding; chopped parsley on sauté potatoes; paprika on egg mayonnaise; turned vegetables and peas with a brown lamb stew; orange salad with roast duck – these are but a few examples of how important colour is in the presentation of a dish and in the planning of a menu.

Wording of menus

When all the previous points have been considered than the menu can be written. Many errors can occur in the writing of menus and the following are examples which should be noted.

1. Consider the customer to be fed, and select language which will be easy understood

2. It is customary in first-class establishments to use Frech for menu writing. A sensible thing to do is to give an English translation as a simple description under or by the side of each dish

3. Having selected a language for the menu avoid using a mixture of language on the same menu except in the case of certain national dishes which are best kept in the language of the country of origin. For example: in a first-class hotel or restaurant on a table d’hôtel menu which may be of the highest order and written in French, dishes such as Irish Stew, Lancashire Hot Pot, Steak and Kidney Pie should appear in the language of the country of origin not as Ragoût Irlandaise or Irish Stew aux Légumes, Casserole Lancashire, Pie à la Biftek et Rognon.

Certain menu terms such as Horse d’oeuvre, Mayonnaise, Hollandaise, Bonne-Femme, Chasseur should not e translated into English.

Where the place of origin of a food is known it may be used on the menu: Roast Aylesbury Duckling; Grilled Dover Sole; Vale of Evesham Asparagus; Minted New Jersey Potatoes; Kentish Strawberries with Devonshie Cream; York Ham with Belgian Chicory Salad.

When writing a menu in French, care should be taken to see that the spelling is correct and that the accents are included.

The words used to describe a dish on a menu must agree in gender and number. For examples:

  • A fillet of sole – Le filet de sole
  • Two fillets of sole – Deux filets de sole
  • Two fried filets of sole – Deux filets de sole frits
  • Lamb – Agneau
  • Lamb cutlet – La côtelette d’agneau
  • Two lam cutlets – Deux côtelettes d’agneau
  • Grilled lamb cutlet – Côtelette d’agneau Grillée
  • Two grilled lamb cutlets – Deux côtelettes d’agneau grillées

It will be noticed that the agreement is made with the cut or joint.

The definite article, le or la, if used with one dish should be used on all dishes; for example:

  • Le Saumon Fume
  • La Selle d’Agneau Rôtie
  • Le Chou-fleur; Sauce Hollandaise
  • Les Pommes Parisienne
  • La Pêche MelaAnd notLe Saumon Fumé
  • Selle d’Agneau Rôtie
  • Le Chou-fleur; Sauce Hollandaise
  • Les Pommes Parisienne
  • Pêche Melba