The menu is primarily a selling aid. Originally the bill of fare (English) or menu (French) was not presented at the table.  Banquets generally consisted of two courses.  Each is made up of a variety of dishes, anything from 10-40 in number. The first set of dishes was placed on the table before the diners entered – hence the word entrée – and when consumed, these dishes were removed or relieved by another set of dishes – hence the words ‘relieves or removes’.

The word ‘menu’ dates back to the 18th century although the custom of making a list of the courses for a meal is much older. Modern menu first appeared during the early 19th century in the Parsan Restaurant of the Palais – Royas. Although, the actual number of courses on a menu and dishes within each course will depend on the size and class of the establishment which usually follows a classic sequence.


A menu is a list of the foods and drinks that are available in a catering establishment. It is a list of food items that is available to be served, from which each guest makes personal choice in sequence at the most convenient time. Menus are primarily selling aids. In other words, it is a means of communication, informing customers what the caterer has to offer. 


A food menu serves several important functions in a restaurant or food establishment. Here are some key functions of a food menu:

1. Communication: The menu acts as a communication tool between the restaurant and its customers. It provides essential information about the available food and beverage options, including their descriptions, ingredients, and prices.

2. Marketing and Promotion: A well-designed menu can be a powerful marketing tool. It showcases the variety and quality of the food offerings, enticing customers to try different dishes. Highlighting specials, chef’s recommendations, or seasonal items can also help promote certain dishes and increase sales.

3. Ordering Guide: The menu serves as a guide for customers to make their food choices. It organizes the available options, categorizes them into sections (e.g., appetizers, main courses, desserts), and provides clear descriptions to assist customers in making informed decisions.

4. Revenue Generation: The menu plays a significant role in generating revenue for the restaurant. Pricing strategies and menu engineering techniques can be applied to maximize profits. By strategically placing higher-profit items or creating attractive combo meals, a restaurant can encourage customers to spend more.

5. Brand Representation: The menu reflects the overall brand image and identity of the restaurant. It should align with the establishment’s style, concept, and target audience. The design, layout, typography, and imagery used in the menu contribute to the brand’s visual identity and create a cohesive experience.

6. Dietary Guidance: Menus can provide important information to customers with specific dietary requirements or restrictions. By including symbols or labels next to items (such as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or allergen information), customers can easily identify suitable choices, ensuring a positive dining experience for everyone.

7. Operational Efficiency: A well-structured menu can contribute to the smooth operation of the kitchen and service staff. It helps streamline food preparation processes, ingredient inventory management, and staff training by providing clear instructions on how to prepare each dish and standardizing portion sizes.

8. Innovation and Seasonal Adaptation: Menus can be regularly updated to introduce new dishes, seasonal specialties, or limited-time offers. This allows the restaurant to innovate, respond to customer preferences, and adapt to changing food trends and seasons.

Overall, a food menu serves as a comprehensive tool that communicates the restaurant’s offerings, promotes its brand, guides customers in their dining choices, and contributes to the success and profitability of the establishment.



  1. Define the word, menu.
  2. Give a brief history on the origin of menu.


  1. Hors – d’oeuvres: This course consists of a variety of compound salads but now includes items as pates, mousses, fruits, seafood cocktail and smoked fish. It could be hot or cold.
  2. Soups (Potages): These include all soups, both hot and cold.
  3. Egg dishes (Oeufs): There are a great number of egg dishes.
  4. Pasta and Rice (Farineux): This includes all pasta and rice dishes.
  5. Fish (Poisson): This course consist of fish dishes, both hot and cold
  6. Entrée (Main dishes used as a starter): They are generally small, well garnished dishes which come from the kitchen ready for service. They are usually accompanied by a rich sauce or gravy. Examples of this type of dishes are sweet bread, garnished cutlets.
  7. Sorbet (Granites): Lightly frozen water ice based on unsweetened fruit juice probably served with a spirit, liqueur or champagne. It is served to give a pause within a meal, allowing the palate to be refreshed.
  8. Releve: This refers to the main roast or other larger joints of meat, which would be served together with potatoes and vegetables.
  9. Roast (Roti): This term refers to roasted game and poultry dishes.
  10. Vegetables (legumes): This could be served with releves or roast courses or as a separate course served as starters.
  11. Salad (Salade): Small plate of green salad and salad dressing taken after main course.
  12. Cold buffet (buffet froid): It includes a variety of cold meat and fish, cheese and egg dishes with a range of salads and dressings.
  13. Cheese (fromage): It includes a variety of cheese and various accompaniments.
  14. Sweet (entremets): It refers to both hot and cold puddings.
  15. Savoury (savoureux): Sugarless dishes such as welsh, rarebit, pastry or other items on toast.
  16. Fruits (dessert): Fresh fruits and sometimes candied fruits.
  17. Beverages: They include tea, standard and de-caffeinated coffee, hot or cold milk drinks, etc.

However, the above menus have been grouped under the following categories in modern day catering establishments:

  1. Starters made of the first three e. g. Hors d’ouvre, soups, and egg dishes.
  2. Main courses made up of farinaceous dishes, fish, entrée, releve and cold buffet.
  3. Desserts which include cheese dishes, fruits and sweet dishes.
  4. Beverages.

The scopes of a menu includes

  1. The appetizers which are the starters or first course of the meal.
  2. The main meal or entrée.
  3. Desserts or sweet e. g. ice cream, cakes, fruits, etc.
  4. Beverages e. g. variety of teas, cocoa drinks and coffee.
  5. Continental and ethnic menus.
  6. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.


  1. What is Bill of fare?
  2. List the classic sequences involved in the planning of menus.
  3. State two main functions of a menu.
  4. State six scopes of menu
  5. Mention three categories of kitchen equipment with two examples each.


  1. Creative display of menus on menu card goes along way in ____. A. reducing its selling B. improving its selling chasing customers’ away D. reducing cost of production
  2. The word menu is a ____ word A. British B. French C. English D. Italian
  3. A list of meals, drinks that are available can best be described as a ____. A. Food B. Dish C. menu D. dinner
  4. ____ are generally small, well garnished dishes which comes from the kitchen ready for service. A. Sweet        B. Savoury C. Roast
  5. ____ is served to give a pause within a meal, allowing the palate to be refreshed. A. Sorbet B. Releve C. Sweet D. Savoury


  1. What is menu?
  2. List five items from the classic sequence of menu.

See also






Author: Mrs Ngozi Nnanna

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