Index cards are still a great way to visualize and organize menus until they get wet or messy. Trello is a digital version of index cards that acts as a digital corkboard that allows you to arrange your recipe cards in a variety of ways. What’s more, each recipe is searchable, easily edited, and legible. All of the features of this free tool (with premium options) come together to make restaurant menu planning and organization so much easier.
While you could incorporate all of your existing recipes to build, it may be best to start small and build your Trello board of recipes one season at a time. To start a board with your first seasonal menu, you should import a variety of existing recipes and then decide whether you want to organize your board’s columns (or lists in Trello talk) by category or by course.
For instance, dedicating a column for each protein, and then for vegetable-, grain-, or pasta-based dish allows you to build a seasonal menu with plenty of options. For smaller menus, it may be easier to organize your menu board by course, such as appetizers, entrée, and desserts.
If that seems too broad, that’s because we haven’t yet discussed card labels. Labeling is where the visual nature of Trello really stands out. Labels add a rainbow of color to cards and makes it easy to find what you’re looking for, even if that recipe is as specific as a high-profit vegetable spring entrée or a costlier winter dessert. (It’s also easy to sort by these labels, which is addressed below.)
Each Trello card includes a title, description box, attachment form, and comments. Title each recipes card as it would appear on the menu and perhaps add some menu phrasing in the top of the description box. The ingredients and preparation notes go in the description box, and attaching a photo of the finished dish will make it the prominent image of the card.
When testing menu items, take photos and upload to each card – even if you tweak the ingredients later, the dish should look much the same. Nine months later, a photo of a seasonal favorite will trigger your memory faster than the recipe’s title alone.
Another tip is to include consistent phrasing for things like prep time, which could be abbreviated “PT:30” and easily brought up in more specific searches (more on that later).
Trello is an easy-to-use program and one of the best ways to learn all of its potentials is to use it. Start with a few staples on your menu, from soup to nuts, and include try to include a recipe for each category list. Then add a couple of labels that make sense for your restaurant’s planning. Once you’ve done that, it will be easier to understand some of the features like filtering and searching, which is where the labels really help.
Each recipe card can be tagged with multiple colored labels to denote a season, course, or dietary preferences. For example, a planner can designate appetizers as blue, vegetarian meals as green, and gluten-free options with a gold label. A chef looking for a vegetarian, gluten-free appetizer has the quick visual cue of cards with blue, green, and gold labels.
More importantly, those specific needs can be easily filtered by colors or keywords. Another labeling idea is to label the cost (and profits) of each recipe; something chefs and owners considers when building menus.
To filter labels: Press ‘F’ to open the Filter Cards sidebar and click on the colored label(s) desired. Using the previous example, checking the blue, green, and gold labels in the filter menu would make those recipes appear.
To search by ingredient: Press ‘F’ to open the Filter Cards sidebar and type in ‘cauliflower’, though these may come up in searches as well.
Refined Searches: There is a way to restrict searches to more detailed prompts like “@me” to restrict the search to only your cards. For example, typing “Finish This” in the comments of unfinished recipes is a nice way to sort work that needs to be done, then searching that phrase would show only those cards.
Trello is an incredibly flexible tool and you may find that it works better for you than specific restaurant menu planning software. For restaurant menu planning, it’s hard to beat such a flexible and easy-to-use web-based tool that is available from any device with an internet connection. That means you can quickly and easily document your restaurant menu planning ideas on the go so you don’t forget a thing.
Trello is an improved version of the classic restaurant menu planning process with index cards. Not only will it be easier to access and use, but it’s also searchable and makes organization much easier.
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