Changes to a menu, although necessary to keep options current and new and to compete well with your nearby rivals and the internet, are always I find, a balancing act.
While taking seasonality into account and sourcing local produce where possible, it is always important to retain the staple dishes and the best-sellers - not doing so could potentially upset repeat customers and affect revenue. Equally as important is what to replace any non-sellers with? While using menu changes and seasonality as a reason to bring in new ideas, it’s also wise to bring back some old favourites now and then.
Personally, I’ve always thought that the newer food trends tend to appeal more to the younger/lower middle age market while the old favourites are enjoyed more by people in middle age, late middle age or the elderly. I suppose part of my thinking here is that by the time most of us reach a certain age, we know what we like - especially us Brits!
It can also be a good idea to run a smaller/lighter menu on the side as an option for children and the elderly who usually eat less or for people on a tighter budget. Having said about the importance of change, the ‘type’ of change will, of course, always depend significantly on the type of business. If you are running a steak house, then your average consumer would expect the menu to be centred around that theme, the same would apply for a curry house or a greasy spoon. Indeed to go radically off course with a menu in a steak house, for instance, would likely be financial suicide!
On the opposite end of the scale, if a Michelin starred restaurant was to lower its game overnight and suddenly cease providing as much variety in the form of a daily a la carte menu with only the finest local ingredients reflecting the changing seasons whilst introducing new food trends, then this for them would I imagine, pretty quickly lead to their demise.
With this in mind, the high-end restaurants are probably more able to introduce and play with new food trends than your average everyday eateries. Sometimes I find the question is - do we change anything at all? If dishes are popular and selling well enough, and you know that most of your repeat customers would be happy with the status quo for another season say, could it be consequential to tamper with that winning system?
I think at the end of the day each of us out there, as competent business people know what works for OUR business and over time develop a kind of instinct for what is right. I personally, as somebody that has always enjoyed working with food, experimenting with different ingredients and tasting new dishes, have always been keen to share these ideas with consumers. I think that is a natural want as a Chef, right?
My advice, though, would be not to run before you can walk. As tempting as it is to introduce new dishes for people to try continually, be sure it IS what’s wanted first - your survival could depend on it!