Six Amazing Ways Software Can Help With Menu and Recipe Planning

Six Amazing Ways Software Can Help With Menu and Recipe Planning

Six Amazing Ways Software Can Help With Menu and Recipe Planning

Whether you’re just starting out in the food business or you’re part of an established business, you’ll probably have some good idea what kind of food you want to serve and why. You’ll already know what kind of business you want, whether this is a chain of restaurants, a fleet of food trucks or contract catering. You’ll also know what kind of food you want to be serving – this may already be dictated by your target market or you’ve spotted a gap in the market you can exploit.
Planning a menu with the big picture
In commercial hospitality and catering, the success of recipes and menus doesn’t rest on innovation alone. As well as the chef’s knowledge and the sophistication of their plate, there are other factors you need to consider. These include: customer demand, profitability of menu items, cost of raw ingredients, availability of ingredients, required skill of cooking staff, cost of labour and required specialist equipment.
What do your customers want when it comes to recipes and menus?
Customers’ choices tend to come down to two essentials: what’s on the menu and how much it is. There is a lot of research around the psychology of customers’ menu decision-making, and how food managers can influence it. But where do you start with menu planning?
Look at research and trend predictions: It really depends on what sector you’re in and the tastes of your target audience, but there’s no escaping the statistics – they can provide you with valuable insights on menu design.

Ask your friends and family: Analyse your own experiences when eating out, and quiz your family and friends on their own menu experiences. It’s free and valuable market research!

Look at competitors: Have you got a successful competitor? Look at what food they’re doing right, it will give you a great indication of what your customers want. From this, can you create a menu that is the same but different so you can get those customers to you. What you want to aim for is to create what they do just as well but make it cheaper for the customers; it’s a no brainer that they wouldn’t want to come to you!

Customers want you to change regularly: You need to look at your sales versus spend and keep those successful dishes, but the ones that aren’t doing too well, don’t be afraid to get rid. You want to update your menu regularly so that your customers have new recipes to try, but keeping those favourites on there.

So how can software help with recipe and menu planning?
Using software can lessen the burden. Some software can automate menu planning processes that would take numerous man hours to complete. Efficient recipe and menu management means utilising your stock information to its fullest potential – and all you need to build recipes is a stock file which is where you store all of your ingredients and form a bank of them.
Remember, software doesn’t stifle creativity, it simply records the process! Outlined below are challenges you may come across when planning a menu or recipe and how different software can help.
  • Mobile catering
The first challenge you may have is if you’re a static or offsite / mobile caterer and you want to create recipes and menus. If you’re in a static kitchen and want to focus on local suppliers and local ingredients, you can get software that stores these details so that you can see how their live prices affect your profit margins. This will always keep you one step ahead of the game. If you’re thinking of going mobile, you can get software that builds and adapts recipes and menus that travel well without overcooking or drying them out.
  • Making healthy meals
Next, a challenge you may encounter is adhering to nutritional standards. This is extremely important and something you must follow when planning a menu or recipe. If you need to build healthy recipes and menus, with a required quota of different food groups, there is software that allows you to set guidelines and benchmark your recipes‘ performance against them. This ensures you are meeting the guidelines, especially if you’re providing for a caterer with a very strict nutritional requirement. There is software that allows you to add ingredients to your recipe and the nutritional profile will be calculated so you will know the exact measurements in each recipe. Software can highlight any changes you may need to make if a recipe doesn’t meet the nutritional guidelines you have entered.
  • Check your menu is making you money
The third challenge you might come across is designing menus and recipes for maximum profit. I mean, most businesses are going to want to produce food to create as much profit as they can so it’s ensuring what menu or recipe you do design, does in fact do this. There is software available that allows you to cost up your recipes, which you will only ever have to do once. This will show you which menus you create are good value for their money and which ones you might need to think about changing. You want to look for software where you can easily change the recipes you have already inputted. Costs of the availability of ingredients are constantly changing so you need software that keeps up to do date with these changes so you are provided with accurate data.
  • Catering for special dietary needs
An increasingly prominent issue for caterers is having to provide for special diets. People have different diets due to many different reasons: to lose weight, to gain weight, a medical condition and so on so you need to ensure you can cater for all of this. If you’re looking at creating menus for a vast range of diets, you need to find software that allows you to substitute ingredients in recipes that you have already made. This saves you a lot of time and will calculate the cost and nutritional value of the recipe. Some software also allows you to save preferred free-from suppliers so that you always have their up to date price lists.
  • Meeting customer demand
The fifth challenge you may encounter is meeting customer demand. If you don’t have any way of recording what people are eating, how are you meant to know what dishes are successful and what dishes aren’t? If you are interested in meeting customer demand then you need to find catering software that allows you to see sales versus spend. You’ll need it to record what dishes have been bought and how much you spent preparing the dish. This will give you a clear indication on whether this dish is making you profit or not. It might be your best seller, but are the ingredients you use to expensive making your sales versus spend negative. From this it will allow you to move forward with your business, looking at changing suppliers if the ingredients you currently have are too costly.
  • Standardising menus
The final challenge you may have is standardising recipes. Generally, you are probably going to have differences in skills within your staff, so how do you manage this? If this is a big problem within your business, you need to find software that allows you to store recipe cards. Within these recipe cards you can standardise the method by which your food is made which meets the varied skills you have in your kitchen. Not only does this make all staff feel comfortable as they are cooking to their set skill standard, but it can also teach them along the way without any input from you. They are able to choose the required method to cook the food, so they may choose a recipe which is a bit out of their depth but they can deepen their skills along the way… how else are you meant to learn?
So now you have been addressed with how software can help you with menu and recipe planning, you need to choose which one will meet your needs. You may only be looking for 1 of these features, or all of them. If you head over to FDHospitality  you will be given information on catering software where you can decide what will be best for you.


Since 1924, FDH have been passionate about catering. With over 200 years combined experience in software design and a wealth of knowledge, the Fretwell Downing Hospitality team brings you the market leading software, Saffron. Their passion and knowledge enables them to continue to develop Saffron to support the demands you face  in the hospitality industry, whatever your sector. Home grown and still based in Sheffield, they're proud to be supporting catering operations worldwide; including customers here in the UK and as far afield as the Middle East.

  • Sam Christie