I developed the idea of a small homelike menu of few choices each day. A soup, 2 mains and a fruit based dessert. A small number of dishes to make it easier for the chef, and to reflect the 'mumfood' nature of the menu.
Then I had to consider how a chef would manage this day in, day out. The chef needs the balance between the interest of new foods, and the ease of bringing out a tried and tested menu. I thought about how I would like to set up the menu if I was cooking for 150 locals every day. The formula I came up with was to have a different menu every day of the week, but to repeat that menu for the four weeks of the month.
I will put an example of this below so you can see what I mean.
The chef can come up with a menu based on the local seasonal produce. Planning one week pretty well plans the month and hopefully each week will get easier to prepare and serve (plus each week responding to customer feedback ~ and variations in produce), and just when it might get boring there is a new month to plan for.
It is really easy to plan how to eat at the cafe.
If your favourite meal is up on Tuesday you can plan to eat at the cafe each Tuesday (or call in for takeaway). If you like trying a different dish each time, and you always eat at the Cafe on Tuesday, you have the variety of a soup one week, and each of the mains, and then whatever was your favourite on the last week!
If you eat there almost every day, you will get plenty of variety.
Or if you have particular food requirement, you can search out the gluten free option, the vegetarian one, or the meat and three veg one, and work your visit accordingly.
ProblemThe biggest problem that has been pointed out to me is the issue of waste. Someone who had been involved with restaurants talked about having the same meal day after day on the menu means that left over ingredients etc aren't wasted. I do think this is an issue, it is important to avoid waste on every level! but I feel strongly that with the small menu there needs to be the variety over the week.
I am in favour of running out of food every day! I do know this is considered restaurant blasphemy, but it really can avoid the waste issue. It would work fine if the cafe had an excellent relationship with the customers so that there was a good sense of who will be in and what will they need. The community aspect of the Yamdaisy Cafe helps here. The personal relationships and the help of electronic communication make it easier.
The chef could twitter "Sorry we are out of Irish stew'
or "We have takeaway containers of fish cakes and fennel on special for $5 each. Hurry, only 20."
Also, careful menu planning means that the carrots in the salad on Monday could feature in the soup on Tuesday (for example), and in that way ingredients can be used most efficiently.
So that issue hasn't changed my mind! But please, argue with me! Can you see a better way to do it? Convince me.
I get a bit nervous structuring it all based on my own limited thinking! Let me know what you think. Cooks view and customers view welcome!
SAMPLE WEEKLY MENU to be repeated through a Melbourne (Autumn) April
Monday (Joy's Autumn Menu)
Soup: Zucchini Soup with a Dinner Roll
Main 1: Fried Rice with Coriander and Pepper Paste
Main 2: Mexican Polenta Stuffed Peppers With Refritos Beans and Salsa
Fruit Based Dessert: Apple Puree with Custard and an Oat Crisp
Soup: Wild Mushroom Soup with Thyme Scones
Main 1: Dal Makhani with Lemon Rice and Carrots Roasted with Cumin Seeds
Main 2: Red Bean and Chicken Bake with Green Salad
Fruit Based Dessert: Greek Yoghurt and Berries with Rosewater syrup.
Wednesday (Jinie's Menu)
Soup: Potato and Leek Soup with crusty bread
Main 1:Pasta Bake made with Grated Vegetables and Bolognaise sauce.
Main 2:Veggie Slice (a frittata with lots of vegetables) served with a Side Salad and a little bowl of Sweet Relish
Fruit Based dessert: Fruit Salad with Honey Icecream.
Thursday (Rose's menu)
Soup: Pumpkin Soup with a bread roll
Main 1: Macaroni Cheese and a Green Salad
Main 2: Chicken Caesar Salad Meal-in-a-bowl
Fruit Dessert: Apple Crumble and Custard
Soup: Autumn Minestrone
Main 1: Cornish Pasty with Autumn Salad
Main 2: Black Bean and Chilli Rice Vermicelli garnished with Spring Onions, Lettuce and Coriander
Fruit Based Dessert: Poached Pears with Baked Ricotta