design and cost menus




First published 2022

Version 1.0


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SITHKOP015 Design and cost menus


This unit describes the performance outcomes, skills and knowledge required to design profitable menus for all types of cuisines and food service styles. It requires the ability to identify target markets for the organisation, design menus to meet market preferences, price menu items and to monitor and evaluate the success of menu performance.

The unit applies to hospitality and catering organisations and to those people who operate independently and are responsible for making a range of operational and strategic decisions. This includes senior catering managers, and sous, head and executive chefs.

The skills in this unit of competency must be applied in accordance with Commonwealth and State or Territory legislation, Australian and New Zealand standards and industry codes of practice.

No occupational licensing, certification or specific legislative requirements apply to this unit at the time of publication.


SITHKOP010 Plan and cost recipes

Learning goals

Research and assess current and new market trends.

Identify target markets.

Develop menus to attract target market customers.

Price menu to ensure the business makes a profit.

Create attractive menus.

Gather feedback.

Monitor and assess success of menu.

Fact Sheets

Fact Sheet 9 – Reading and Interpreting Recipes

Fact Sheet 12 – Understanding Your Customers

Fact Sheet 13 – Costing Dishes

Fact Sheet 15 – Gathering Feedback

Fact Sheet 39 – Presentation and Plating Techniques

Overlap alert

Learners may already be familiar with the following concepts:

reading and interpreting recipes

presentation and plating techniques.

1: Introduction


Your menu is the most important piece of marketing that your business has! People often check out an establishment’s menu at the front door before deciding whether to go in and eat there. This is especially true in busy ‘restaurant strips or laneways’, where there are many options to choose from. Today, it is also very common to check out a menu online before deciding to book a table.

Customers are using some of their senses before they even taste the dish they order. They will read the menu and decide how the dish is going to taste by the description. They will imagine the flavours in their mind while waiting for the meal to be brought to them.

The menu also allows the business to express its brand. It will be styled in a certain way and will have its own ‘personality’. Perhaps it will use humour, colours, thematic dish names, or descriptive language to show uniqueness.

Image by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels

There are many types of menus and service styles. Depending on your business, you need to ensure that your menu and service styles suit your customer market.

Main types of menus

À la carte

À la carte means “by the menu” in French. This type of menu is one of the most common, as it lists items with a price and the customer can choose what they would like to order. It gives the customer flexibility and lots of options.

Table d’hôte

Table d’hôte means “the host’s table” in French. It encourages sharing and refers to the experience of meals being ‘shared’ with customers and the host.

Prix fixe (degustation or chef’s tasting)

Again, prix fixe is a French term that means “fixed price”. There may be numerous options for each course, but every customer will receive the same number of courses and pay the same fixed price.

A prix fixe menu is usually themed and is centred around careful, appreciative tasting of various foods. It is a way for the chef to demonstrate their skills by offering small samples of their signature dishes. This type of menu usually includes wine or beer paired with each course at an additional cost.


A cycle menu refers to the practice of offering a different menu each day for a set period, with the menu ‘cycle’ then being repeated. For example, every Sunday, dinner is roast beef and roast vegetables.


A static menu does not change, with the same food or courses being served all year. This type of menu is most common in fast-food restaurants.


A buffet menu is usually at a fixed price. The customer serves themselves from a large choice of dishes at a central table (buffet). This type of offering was popular for breakfast at hotels. However, due to the global pandemic, it is no longer as common.

Other menu types include:


Service styles

Table/American/pre-plated service

This is the most common service style in Australia. The customer orders their meal from the wait staff. Once the meal is ready, the server places the ordered item in front of the customer.

Family-style/banquet/English service

In this style of service, platters are placed on the table and customers help themselves.

Guèridon/Cart service

This style of service is where the server partially cooks the food on a trolley or cart, as the food is on a portable heating unit. Then, they transfer the food onto the customer’s plate from the cart using spoons and forks.

Buffet service

Food is displayed in cabinets or buffets for this style of service. The customer selects what they would like and places it on their own plate using the spoons and tongs provided.


This is where the customer helps themselves to their food – as in buffets.

Other service styles include:

Silver service – Meals are cooked at the table and the server places the food on platters. The guests then help themselves.

Single-point service – The customer purchases and collects their meal at the sales counter.

Takeaway service – The customer purchases the food and then takes it away to eat at another location.

Canapés/pass-around service – The server walks among the customers (usually with bite-sized meals) and customers take what they would like. This style is mainly used for weddings and large functions.

The menu design and the dishes on the menu are based on:

customer preferences

staff competencies

venue size

theme or ethnic focus

target market

intended price of meals

service style.


Your trainer will provide you with some examples of menus or ask you to research the different types of menus. Look at the different menus and classify what type each one is or find a menu for each of the styles.

Consider how each menu meets market preferences, such as whether it:

has a balanced variety of dishes

is sequenced correctly

has good descriptions that sell each item on the menu

follows naming conventions

has a suitable format for your customer market

is easy to read

has used a good mix of colour and contrast (to make the menu look attractive).

In a small group, discuss the different menu types and give an example of each.

2: Customer market trends and target markets


It is important that you understand your customers and what their needs and preferences are. This will allow you to develop a customer profile for your business. By conducting research on customer preferences and emerging trends – and then targeting your customer base – you will be better able to promote your business and attract customers.


  Time for some facts
Look at the following Fact Sheet:

Fact Sheet 12 – Understanding Your Customers

If you have already looked at this Fact Sheet, you can move on or review it to refresh your memory.


When considering customer preferences, you must ask yourself:

What products and services do you offer?

Who are your customers?

What could you do better?

Who is in direct competition with your business?

How are you different or unique?

What do you want to achieve (i.e. what are your business goals)?

Consider what characteristics your customers share. These could include:




disposable income

residential location

recreational activities.

Image by Cliff Booth on Pexels

For example, a café in an industrial area will most likely have tradespeople stopping by early in the morning for breakfast, smoko, or a lunch break. They will be looking for a quick and easy option to eat during their short break. This could be coffee, cold drinks, pies, sandwiches, or meal deals. However, a café in a busy tourist district has a different target customer.

It’s also likely customers may want to spend a longer time at the venue and could be happy to wait for a more complex or ‘local’ dish.

Think about why your customers dine out and how they make decisions. This could include:

work demands or stresses

family needs

budget burdens

social or emotional needs

education and experience

perceptions of value for money

brand preferences.

Information gathering

You can gather information on market statistics by using:

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

social media


industry publications (such as magazines, books, and memberships)

competitor research

SWOT analysis (identifying your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats).

You can also collect data on customer profiles and preferences through:

customer feedback forms

customer complaint records

sales records (identifying which meals on the menu are the most popular)

focus groups

customer databases

comparisons with similar establishments

food industry statistics

local area demographics.

Image by Edmond Dantès on Pexels

By gathering information from these sources, you can determine who your potential customers are, understand why they spend their money and what they like to spend it on – as well as what they prefer and expect when dining out. Then, you can market your products and services to meet those needs and expectations.


  Time for some facts
Look at the following Fact Sheet:

Fact Sheet 15 – Gathering Feedback (sections 2-3)

If you have already looked at this Fact Sheet, you can move on or review it to refresh your memory.


Changes in the food industry, global events, and shifts in the way people want to eat all influence whether your business will be successful. To meet the evolving needs and preferences of customers, businesses need to keep up to date with food service trends.

To identify food service trends and market preferences, you will need to:

identify the current customer market, based on past and current sales performance

analyse your current customer profile and food service preferences

research the current and emerging food service trends and customer preferences

evaluate market trends for relevance to your organisational service style and cuisine

identify target markets based on the nature, style, and location of your operation.

When thinking of ideas for dishes to develop your menu, you must also consider:

what is currently ‘fashionable’

influences from the media and social media

Image by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels

cultural and ethnic influences that affect food trends

seasonal influences.

Fashionable eating habits

Fashionable eating habits’ are when people change their preferences based on what is popular at that moment in time. They may want to:

do their part to reduce climate change,

follow the diet of a celebrity, or

eat at a trendy establishment that’s known to cater to a certain group of people or ‘in crowd’.

Cultural and ethnic influences

Australia is a multicultural nation. People from different backgrounds often open cafes and restaurants to provide cuisine from their (or their parent’s) country of origin. Australians travelling around the world have come to value other countries’ cuisines. This can mean, for example, that some spice blends common in certain cultures become popular to enhance flavour.

Major festivals and events

The COVID-19 pandemic may have put a stop to events, but many are now back. The pandemic also:

increased the popularity of food delivery (such as UberEats),

enhanced dining experiences for customers, and

led to more limited menus – due to increased costs from tough economic conditions.

Events and festivals today look different to how they did before the pandemic. Food and wine festivals have become popular for chefs to promote world-class food from their restaurants. Many towns now host food and wine festival associated with major area events – for example, the flower festival in Toowoomba.



Image by cottonbro on Pexels

Media influence

The media is highly influential on customer behaviour. For example, the media may tell us that certain foods are bad for us, or that eating certain foods can help a person lose weight. Media influences are all around us and can include television, radio, social media, and the internet generally.

The media also influences technology trends. Many brands pay to have their product in a popular movie or TV show, to encourage viewers to purchase that product – for example, Coca-Cola.

Seasonal influences

Certain foods are only available in at certain times of the year. Summer fruits have a great influence, as do fresh produce and supply chains, which need to have products available for something to be on a menu.


Social media

Customers today rely on recommendations – from social media to Google Reviews. Positive or negative attention often determines if a product or food outlet will be successful or not.


Listen to an audio commentary by Sherri Kimes on Customer Dining Preferences in the Post-Pandemic World.

Video: (06:12)

Read the 10 Dining Trends to Watch in 2022 industry report.



In small groups, discuss the customer market bases for your businesses. Consider customer profiles and preferences, and share your findings with the class.


By identifying what products, service styles, and quality the customer expects, you can ensure that you meet those needs and preferences. You will need to:

research the current market and customer preferences generally – as well as your competitors

identify who your target market is and your customers’ preferences and expectations

create an attractive menu to meet those needs and expectations

monitor and evaluate the success of any decisions made by reviewing revenue or sales records, customer complaints, and feedback

practise continuous improvement to be competitive in the market.


Tip for creating menus
Remember to consider that the customer’s preferences come from four main senses. These include:

Texture – such as firmness or juiciness of the dish.

Taste – such as sweetness or bitterness of the dish.

Smell – the aroma of the dish.

Appearance – such as size, colour or shape of the dish.



Some emerging trends for 2022

The health-conscious movement is expected to continue as a trend for 2022 and 2023. This includes:

sustainable and local ingredients

GMO-free and organic produce

vegan and vegetarian options

a focus on healthy meals.

Some ways to create healthier options on your menu include:

having a choice of vegetarian and vegan options on the menu

focusing on seasonal, local, organic, and sustainable produce

sourcing produce locally or from all-natural farms

removing processed or pre-packaged ingredients from your standard recipes

serving smaller portion sizes.

Other emerging or continuing trends for 2022 include:

ghost kitchens

food delivery options

stronger online presence (and an increasing role of social media)

green and sustainable kitchens

personalised dining – with customers having high expectations.

Some customer expectations identified through research include:

customised service

consistently great food (including presentation – as looks influence how a customer thinks a dish tastes)

outstanding atmosphere (such as alfresco dining or a ‘cosy’ feeling)

effective customer service.


  Time for some facts
Look at the following Fact Sheet:

Fact Sheet 39 – Presentation and Plating Techniques

If you have already looked at this Fact Sheet, you can move on or review it to refresh your memory.



When creating your menu, you will need to source information directly related to your business. This includes:

commercial information on kitchen equipment and inventory for your business

financial data and budgets for the operation of a hospitality industry business

product information – such as purchase specifications, suppliers, and price-lists

recipes and Stand Recipe Cards (SRCs).

Technology can also help you keep records. For example, consider using:

online folders to organise your data

the internet for effective research

spreadsheet and word processing programs for professional menu costing and writing.


In small groups, research food service trends and choose one to discuss with the other students. Your trainer will provide you with an example of a food industry trend and discuss the important aspects of that trend.

Work within your group to decide how that trend will influence a business and why.


3: Create menus to meet market preferences


Now that you have researched your customer needs and preferences, you must create an attractive menu to meet those needs. When creating a menu, ensure that you:

follow naming conventions

use descriptions that sell your dish

create a layout and format that reflects your business’ brand and style.

Be careful when adding seasonal produce, as prices and availability will change throughout the year.

The menu sequence

Image by Spencer Davis on Unsplash

Menu sequence is based on a principle known as “L-S-L” which stands for “light, substantial, light”. Start and end with light meals, with something more filling in the middle.

An example of an L-S-L three-course meal could be:

Entrée – Smoked salmon pate, with fennel en croute

Main – Beef releves in scorched tomato concasse, served with herbed potatoes

Dessert – Watermelon and apple sorbet, with fresh lime zest and mint.


In small groups, use the L-S-L principle to create a five-course menu.

Seasonal products

Seasonal products affect the contents of your menu, the freshness of produce, and price.

The same produce in opposite seasons may have a large price difference. For example, if you have mango salsa in a menu item, the cost from suppliers during the summer months will be far lower than it will be out of season. The mangoes will need to be imported during winter (increasing the cost) or you will have to purchase frozen or dried mangoes (changing the flavour of your dish). Some produce is simply not available in certain seasons, so those will need to be exchanged for something else.

Some restaurants choose to make their offering unique by using seasonal produce. They may make slight changes to their menu, depending on the time of year and the produce available, or they may have a completely different menu for different seasons. This can attract new customers, but if you have particularly profitable dishes, you may not want to change your menu.

Menu item naming conventions

Menus need to follow what a customer expects. Therefore, when writing your menu, you must follow the appropriate menu item naming conventions for the style of cuisine that you are offering. This allows customers to understand exactly what a dish is.

For example, if you write ‘risotto’ on a menu, it is common knowledge that this is a meal made with arborio rice, cooked by absorbing broth until it reaches a creamy consistency. If a customer orders that dish, and the rice is fried instead, they will be upset. They would not have received the meal they expected from the description.


For hints and tips on how to write a powerful menu, look at the following link.


Menu descriptions

Menu descriptions do more than let the customer know what is included in the dish (list ingredients). They also sell the dish. Descriptions can be split into three parts:

The title or name of the dish.

The ingredients in the dish…

State the main ingredient first – for example, the meat (which may be chicken) or the main vegetable (which may be eggplant).

This means that the customer only needs to read the whole description if that item becomes an option after their first glance.

Remember to include any allergen advice.

The sentence that sells the dish.

Good menu descriptions inspire customers to order more dishes and also encourage repeat business. Remember that your menu is your most important marketing tool. It is where you sell your business.


State an ingredient’s geographic origin, as it adds value – for example, ‘locally grown’ or ‘Tasmanian’ oysters.

Reference recognisable terms or names – such as ‘wagyu’ beef or ‘organic, Mungalli Creek’ cream.

Describe how unfamiliar ingredients taste.

Use words that describe flavour, texture, and food prep techniques.



For hints and tips on choosing descriptive words for taste, texture, and food preparation, look at the following link.



From what you have learnt about taste, texture, and food preparation words, work in small groups to create menu descriptions for an example six-course degustation menu.

Menu format and layout

When creating a menu, also consider format and layout. It doesn’t just need to look attractive, it also needs to be easy to read – with good structure, balance, flow, and contrast.

Tips for a good menu layout

Choose an easy-to-read font and use that same font throughout your menu.

Select a font size that is legible but not childishly large. If it is too small, it will be difficult for some people to read.

Make sure that your background colour is not too bright and has high contrast.

Be careful when using photos, as the customer will expect the meal to look the same as the photo.

Do not overcrowd the menu. Keep it simple!

Your menu should have a heading or title to group the dishes. For example, you could use ‘entrée’, ‘main’, and ‘dessert’ or group by type of dish – such as ‘pasta’, ‘pizzas’, or ‘from the sea’.

The format of your menu also needs to match your customer type.

If you are a fine dining restaurant: A customer would expect a menu in book format – possibly with a leather embossed cover and each page describing each type of dish (such as entrée or sides). They would generally also have a wine menu separate from the main menu.

If you are a bistro: A customer may not expect a menu at all. Dishes may just be listed on a blackboard, and the customer chooses and orders at the counter.


In small groups, research menus for different types of establishments. Look at the different layouts, formats, and descriptions.

Discuss why they look attractive and how they match the customer profile.


Keep some menus that you like the layout and format of for when you need to create your own menu.


4: Cost menus for profitability


You can create the best and most attractive menu, but if it is not priced correctly, it will negatively impact your business. If meals are priced too high, you may not get enough dining traffic. If meals are priced too low, your business will not make enough profit per meal. Both of these could cause your business to close.

There are four main operating or running costs in the food industry:

  Consumables – the cost of the supplies to produce the food.
  Food and ingredients – the products needed in the recipe to produce the menu item.
  Wages – the costs of staff to produce and serve the food.
  Wastage – due to non-useable trimming and spoilage.


  Time for some facts
Look at the following Fact Sheets:

Fact Sheet 9 – Reading and Interpreting Recipes

Fact Sheet 13 – Costing Dishes

If you have already looked at these Fact Sheets, you can move on or review them to refresh your memory.

Standard recipe cards (SRCs)

Standard recipe cards (SRCs) provide:

the ingredients and their costs – including the yield calculation

the method of preparation

the portion size

the sale price.

Other costs that you need to factor into the price of each dish include:

running or operational costs – such as gas, electricity, and rent/bank loan mortgage


desired profit margins (the mark-up on each the dish)

Goods and Services Tax (GST).

These are usually calculated as a percentage, so they can be added to each dish. Here are some useful formulas for calculating food cost percentages.

Food cost percentages


Portion cost ÷ Selling price

Selling price


Portion cost x Cost mark-up

Yield for ingredients


(Trimmings x 100%) ÷ Raw weight

Food costs (running costs, wages, and profit)


Sales – (Running costs + Wages + Profit desired)

GST added to determine the final sale price


Total portion cost x 10%

GST removed from the sale price to determine its portion of the cost


Sale price – (Sale price ÷11 [GST component])

Below is an example reference of how to calculate the yield for raw ingredients.

Commodity $/kg Trimmings Net Yield/kg Net cost/kg
Beans 2.95 16% 0.840 3.51
Broccoli 4.85 24% 0.760 6.38
Carrots 1.40 16% 0.840 1.67
Cauliflower 5.75 22% 0.780 7.37
Kohlrabi 4.28 32% 0.680 6.29
Spinach 10.60 18% 0.820 12.93
Onions 2.45 14% 0.860 2.85

To calculate a menu effectively, you must consider the net yield to order in correct quantities. To do so, you must weigh the trimmings.

If you buy one kilogram of carrots for $1.40 per kg and have peelings and offcuts weighing 0.160 kg, then you will obtain 840 grams of peeled carrots.

Therefore, these 840 grams of carrots now cost you $1.40.

To work out the price for 1 kg of peeled carrots, the trimming percentage has to be added to the original price for 1 kg of unpeeled carrots.

To obtain the price for 1 kg of peeled carrots, we need to use the following formula:

0.840 kg = $1.40

kg = $X

X = (1.000 x 1.40) / 0.840

X = 1.40 / 0.840

X = 1.666

X = 1.67 (rounded up)

The price for 1 kg of peeled carrots is $1.67.

Commodity $/kg Trimmings Net Yield/kg Net cost/kg
Carrots 1.40 16% 840 g 1.67

Now, let’s look at an example of how to determine the selling price of a dish using a standard recipe card.

Standard recipe cost sheet

Menu Item: Tomato and feta bruschetta
Food costs 19%
Running costs 6%
Wages 26%
Total costs 51%
Mark-up 200%
Ingredients Ingredient cost
Item Amount Unit cost Portion cost
Sourdough 2 slices $6 $1
Tomato 100 g $5/kg $0.50
Red onion 100 g $5/kg $0.50
Seasoning 5 g $2/50 g $0.20
Rocket 10 g $3/bunch $0.30
Olive oil 25 ml $10/L $0.25
Balsamic Glaze 18 ml $5/300 ml $0.30
Feta cheese 5 g $4/200 g $0.10
Total portion cost: $3.15
Add other costs (51%): $4.75
Mark-up (200%): $9.50
Total cost: $14.25
Add GST: $15.70
Cost adjustments to ensure competitiveness: $1.70
Selling price: $14.00


Your trainer will provide a list of ingredients for a standard recipe. You must complete the Standard Recipe Card (SRC) Template – including calculating portion yields, mark-ups, and GST.

Mark-up margins

Mark-up margins are set to ensure that your business makes a profit and provides financial leeway for the unexpected – such as equipment failure and economic or weather events (such as a pandemic or flooding).

Most food service businesses have a standard mark-up of 200% on each dish, but you can adjust this to ensure price competitiveness.

Portion yield

Calculating portion yield is important as it provides the correct calculations relevant to the:

cost of raw ingredients

conversion of raw ingredients to cooked ingredients or ingredients ready for service

number of portions a particular product will produce

returns as a result of sales.

When you purchase raw products, they will generally need cleaning and/or trimming. This will reduce the amount of product available when making the dishes, as the trimmings will be waste.

When you cook raw products, the weight and size of that product can greatly reduce as the moisture is cooked out.

These factors impact the amount of product that you need to produce each portion. Therefore, they need to be included in the portion calculations to determine accurate dish costings.

Tips to minimise waste and yield testing

Use trimmings in stocks and soups to reduce costs.

Calculate and include standard yield tests when calculating menu prices.

Conduct cost comparisons with prepared items, such as pre-cut meats and pre-peeled vegetables.

Remember, if you purchase high-cost raw materials, your wastage cost will be higher.

5: Monitor and evaluate the menu


After you have implemented your menu, you must determine if customers are satisfied with what you have created and make changes as needed. To find this out you, need to gather feedback. When gathering feedback, there are two types of data: qualitative and quantitative data.

Image by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Qualitative data expresses opinions, experiences, or concepts. It provides ideas or insights on a given topic. Qualitative research includes:

Focus groups to understand feelings and attitudes towards a business’ products and services.

Formal and informal discussions with customers regarding their satisfaction with your business. This can be as simple as a server asking how the customer’s meal was when collecting the empty plates.

Visits and reviews of competitors to understand their products and customer service practices.

Comments and reviews on social media.

Regular discussions with staff. This allows them to express customer feedback and complaints (either formal or informal). It also provides an opportunity for staff to express their ideas and changes.

Quantitative data has a numerical aspect and includes:

customer surveys

social media numbers linked to the business

rate of returning customers

sales data that states the revenue for each menu item over a given period

customer feedback forms

financial trends.


  Time for some facts
Look at the following Fact Sheet:

Fact Sheet 15 – Gathering Feedback (section 4 – Responding to and implementing feedback)

If you have already looked at this Fact Sheet, you can move on or review it to refresh your memory.


Menu engineering analysis

It is important to gather feedback on your menu’s performance to ensure that it meets the needs of your target market, matches your customer preferences, and maintains business profitability. Menu analyses measure the profitability and whether a dish is popular.

It allows you to analyse each dish to determine which of the following it is:

High profitability and high popularity (these are called your “stars”)

High profitability and low popularity

Low profitability and high popularity

Low profitability and low popularity.

You can then change the menu to remove low profitability/popularity items and increase your profit.


For more information on menu engineering, look at the following link.



In a small group, decide what the “star” menu items are for each workplace. Discuss why you believe it is a star, and then share your findings with the class.


6: Putting it all together


It’s time to put together everything you have learnt in this unit and create some menus!


Your trainer will split you into four equal groups and give you one of the four menu types to create. Once your group has created your menu, share that menu with the class. Take notes on ideas that you like from other menus, as you will need to create your own.

For your menu, you will need to:

Market the menu to your target market.

Create a menu that…

has a balanced variety of dishes,

has a good menu description that can sell each item on the menu,

follows naming conventions,

has a suitable format for your customer market,

is easy to read, and

has used a good mix of colour and contrast to make the menu look attractive.

Calculate the cost of each dish by…

completing an SRC for each dish on the menu,

calculating portion costs, and then

calculating the total menu costs.


Let it simmer
Reflect on all the activities that you have completed and think about:

what you did well

what you could improve on

what you would do differently next time.


Locate recipes for a variety of buffet dishes. Add these recipes to your Chef’s Toolbox.


Chef’s Toolbox

Use these pages to record recipes, tips and useful resources to add to your Fact Sheets so, at the end of your course, you have a set of references that you can take with you into the workforce.