Association of Independent Museums Bulletin (AIM)

31 May 2017 By Charles Manners

In this second article Turpin Smale Catering Consultants’ Charles Manners is taking a look at what has changed on food and menus and what Museums should be focussing on:

The world of food has changed over the past few years driven by a better informed consumer and many complementary themes that have influenced this changing landscape including sustainability, food festivals, consumers interest in food from TV programmes and an enormous growth in eating out both in cafes and casual restaurants, which the museum market have captured with their improved food offers.

The sustainability and provenance agenda has focussed menus on using high quality food which is locally sourced (as far as possible) and using these products to provide interest for both staff and consumers. This trend has provided opportunities for local producers, farmers and small companies to produce a range of locally made products which taste great and have interesting and innovative packaging, which has transformed the choice available for chefs and operators.  We are also seeing those venues with gardens (or connected) using their produce to great effect; hotels & garden centres are leading the way.

Whether a museum contracts its catering to a third party or operates in-house we would recommend the following process when reviewing the menu as the compilation of menus is such an important part of the visitor experience to a café.

Review sales over a representative period i.e. month, highlighting those products which are out of season, low sellers and or not being delivered consistently

Source ideas from other venues and or competitors, attend one of our café tours, and read our café blog  to gain inspiration and ideas, and involve the team that will deliver and cook the menu

Create new products, take time to ensure they are deliverable in volume, and achieve the balance on the menu, mention local producers

Be careful not to allow the menu to grow, always remove as many items as you add!

Plan menu print and re-design, either on paper or menu boards, to ensure all menu communications are clear, well-lit and easy to read. Key messages on the café’s unique qualities and local suppliers should be highlighted.

Finally each menu product requires its own product back-of-house costings, photographs and productions sheets which includes an analysis of the Allergens.

When launching the new menu and changes to your food offer remember to use all the marketing devices at your disposal including including Twitter, Instagram  and via blogs. Use your hero products, those that look amazing and other areas that differentiate your venue from others. In today’s market consumers want to share their experiences and photos with others, and this should be encouraged!

Charles Manners – Turpin Smale Catering Consultants

In the next issue we will look at the use of outsourcing and volunteers



Ian Doughty


Tracey Fairclough


Charles Manners


Chris Brown







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