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How to Set Creative Limits.

Published Date: June 28, 2023

Limiting your menu creatively can turn culinary chaos into triumph.

So, you want to get super imaginative with your menu? We get it. Most cafe owners are creatives to some degree, but if you’re going to unleash that spark, it makes good business sense to temper it by setting creative parameters based on real data. Achieving a happy balance between profit and creativity is not difficult, but it might take a bit of trial and error to get it right. Here are a few things to consider.

Understand your target customer.

This is probably the main consideration. Think about your cafe’s demographics. What sort of people are your primary customer base? What are their preferences? Are they looking for something stylish with innovative flavour combinations showcasing the latest food trend? Or are they more likely to look for old-fashioned value-for-money hearty meals? When you analyze your customer base, take into account the typical customer’s socioeconomic, age, cultural background (if relevant), and taste preferences.

Strike a balance between familiar and adventurous.

Catering for your primary customer base doesn’t mean you have to throw creativity out the window and offer the same old thing as every other cafe in the area. Strike a balance by offering familiar dishes that cater to the tastes of your main customer base as well as more adventurous options that will attract a wider customer base.

Limited specials.

An excellent way to get creative is to introduce limited-time specials or rotating menu items. This allows you to push creative boundaries, test new dishes and gauge customer response without committing to offering the dish as a permanent menu item. You can determine if these specials should become permanent menu items by monitoring customer feedback and profitability.

Cost analysis.

Whether it’s a limited special or a permanent offering, evaluating the cost and profitability of each menu item should be a routine part of creating your menu. Calculate the ingredient costs, labour requirements, and overhead expenses associated with each dish, then set price points that allow for a reasonable profit margin while factoring in the customers’ perceived value of the dish.

Regular menu evaluations.

Regularly evaluate the performance of your menu items in terms of profitability, customer feedback, and popularity. Remove under performing dishes and experiment with new menu items based on customer feedback and emerging trends.

Seasonal and local ingredients.

Incorporating fresh, high-quality seasonal and locally sourced ingredients into your menu helps build a connection with your community, allows you to get creative with your menu, and encourages customers to try something new. Customers love knowing you are doing what you can to support local producers rather than big corporations. They’re often encouraged to pay more or try something new if they know it benefits the local community.

Menu engineering.

Guide your customer’s focus to the high-profit menu items by strategically but subtly highlighting these items through formatting techniques, positioning within the menu, Feel free to add an image here and there if you like, but remember, visuals aren’t a must in today’s world.


Creativity should not compromise quality or consistency, so ensure your staff have been trained to present menu items consistently. It’s no good having an amazing menu with mouth-watering creative dishes if the dining experience for the customer is a bit hit-and-miss. You’ll turn random customers into regulars if they know they will consistently get delicious, well presented food and great service. It’s one of the core ways to maintain the reputation of your cafe and grow your customer base.

Schedule a specialised creativity coaching session.

We provide targeted coaching in the field of creativity, providing focused guidance to help you harness and refine your creative skills while ensuring profitability. These sessions cover simplicity, seasonality kitchen practicalities, menu size & variety, flavour profiling, productivity, profitability, chef/cook proficiency, menu design & grammar.
Striking the right note between profit and creativity is a balancing act. While offering unique and creative dishes will help set your cafe apart from the crowd, they must be commercially viable and align with your customers’ preferences, so regularly assess your menu. Listen to your customers and change things up when needed.