Adapting for Amazing Menus

Overhead of steak on plate

An amazing menu doesn’t just happen. It takes time, patience, understanding and flexibility to make it something your customers tell their friends about. Of all these elements, perhaps the most valuable one is flexibility — adapting when you’re thrown for a loop.

Our Sterling Silver Signature Chef Nick Unangst has some excellent insight into how to roll with the punches. Managing the kitchen and menus of 10 restaurants in the seasonal destination of Hilton Head, SC, Chef Nick gets creative whenever it’s necessary. “You can kind of count on either man or nature always throwing you a curve,” he says. “It’s just part of the deal.”

Overall, Chef Nick offered these tips when designing your menu:

  • Quality of ingredients has to be first; you can’t risk word of mouth with a bad dish
  • Give them something they can’t execute at home; people want to see skill
  • Try to keep control of your dishes for as long as you can, especially with delivery; packaging, cooking methods and delivery methods are key
  • Feature specials with local ingredients; it makes a good story
  • Train staff and expediters on the menu; help them sell your craft

Adapting to supply scarcity has also been a particular challenge for Chef Nick of late. “We’ve had a little slow down with things like spices and cured meat,” he tells us. “So we had to adapt and go outside our regular suppliers. As long as the quality is still high. We won’t do that if the quality isn’t there.”


His biggest tip? Keep changes simple and make sure your staff is well-trained. “We have a feature sheet in all our restaurants and everything is tested out from that sheet so we’ve run it multiple times,” he says. “That way, the cooks know how to make it, the kitchen knows how to buy for it and the servers know how to sell it. Typically when we do a menu change, it’s something they’ve seen multiple times. So, we know we can execute it at a high level.”

He also knows how crucial his staff is. “One of our goals as a company is to train the trainer,” he explains. “We feel like spending that time and effort will help build loyalty and create a culture that will help us maintain our success.” Then, all that’s left is to dazzle your guest. “I think for us, our success comes from being willing to spend more on the quality of the product that’s going on the plate than on, say, marketing,” he says. “Our philosophy since I’ve been with the company has been, let’s put it on the plate and let that be our marketing.”

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