Cooking & Restaurant Management/easy bar food


QUESTION: I have recently taken a bar manager job at an American Legion.  I have never done this before and I have a ton of questions.  But for right now I am looking for menu ideas that are easy enough for a bartender to fix without being away from the bar too long.  Then I want to do special offerings on different days of the week.  Burgers on Thursday.   Chicken wings on fridays.  I would love to do a pizza on Sundays as the pizza shop in town closed down.  I make a great pan pizza but it takes 1.5 hours to rise.  I tried to pre bake it and freeze it but it just wasn't near as good.  I would love some ideas on how to bring members in and up proceeds by offering great food that will not cost the club too much.  This is a small town country legion.  On a friday night we may do 15 food tickets.  Wings, fish dinner (cole slaw & fries) and I have been doing quesadillas which are doing well so far.  Any ideas or suggestions to get me going?

Thank you,

ANSWER: Hi Zora,

I apologize for being slow to reply.

Before I can give you good advice, it would be really, really helpful to know what equipment you have to work with.  Unless you can change that, your current equipment will dictate what you can prepare or not prepare efficiently.  You mentioned burgers, wings and pizza, so that would imply that you have either a char grill or flat grill, deep fryers and an oven.

Also, if you have a limited number of guests, it is good to have a small menu to avoid waste and utilize ingredients in more than one menu item.

All that being said, (and based upon the assumptions about the equipment that I mentioned above), here are a few ideas:

For your wings.  Toss the raw wings in liquid margarine (to keep them moist), place them on a sheet pan and prebake them at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until completely done.  Cool them completely, then portion bag them (whatever the number of wings you give per serving) and place them in a refrigerator on your cooking line.  Then, when they are ordered, deep fry them for 4 minutes.  They will be crispy outside, moist and juicy inside without drying out and in a much quicker time than if you fry from raw (which is about 14 minutes).

Burgers. Use 3.5 to 4 oz patties for a quicker cook time.  Press them on the grill initially, season them and offer singles and doubles.  It is much faster to cook two thinner patties than one thick one.  

Pizza.  Instead of trying to make pizza dough, buy flatbread from your foodservice supplier (Sysco, US Foods, etc.).  Flat breads can be sauced, topped and baked very, very quickly and make an excellent appetizer or entree.  Whatever toppings you offer, try to also offer sandwiches that use some of the same toppings.

Tacos.  Always easy and always popular.  You can easily set up a taco bar (all you can eat for a fixed price).  

There are a TON of ready-to fry-items available frozen from your foodservice provider. From onion rings and onion straws to stuffed jalapeño poppers to broccoli or macaroni and cheese bites.  All great "finger foods" for a bar.  Just make sure to keep them frozen until you fry them.  And if you want to "customize" them, be creative with the dipping sauces you serve with them.

If you want more ideas, feel free to email me and tell me more about the equipment you have.  

I hope this helps!

David Foster
(417) 877-0428 office
(417) 849-1903 cell

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you!  You assumed correctly.  We have beautiful 2 oven Imperial with flat top and 4 burners that I am still trying to make friends with.  Also 2 pro fries (4 baskets total)  
Sounds like I am on the right track and I love your idea for the wings.  I am tired of wasting some because I can't refreeze them.  
I was thinking flatbread pizzas.  I just want to make sure to find a good flatbread.  
I don't like the taste of some of the finger foods, so a good dipping sauce is just the ticket!

One last question.  Do you know of a easy costing spreadsheet template that is free to download?

Thank you so much for you help!


Hi Zora,

I am not sure about any free food costing templates.  There are a lot of software programs out there available for purchase.  Also, if you are buying from a major distributor like Sysco or US Foods, they each have a menu costing program that they should furnish you at no charge.

I can send you an example of an Excel spreadsheet that we have created, but it is meant to link with your stock and order guide from your distributor, so it may be of limited value.  Just email me directly (my email address is below) and I will send you what I can.

A couple of things to be aware of when you are costing your menu items.  Overall, it is good to have a food cost target of around 30% of sales.  BUT, that being said, it does NOT mean that you should rigidly price everything at that cost level. Some menu items have a higher perceived value by your guests, and you can price them more aggressively and actually have a 25% food cost percentage or less.  Also, always keep in mind that you take DOLLARS to the bank, not percentages.  By that I mean that you make be able to make a 25% food cost on a $6.00 burger, giving you a gross profit margin of $4.50.  BUT, if you have a Ribeye Steak that you sell for $15 with a total plate cost of $7.50 (a 50% food cost) you make $7.50 in gross profit margin.  Always calculate your margin in dollars and look at that as well as food cost percentage.

Last but not least, make sure you look at every component of your "plate costs." A lot of operators think they are making more profit than they are making because they have failed to consider all components.  A good example would be homemade French fries.  Potatoes are cheap, but keep in mind the cost of your cooking oil, seasoning and ketchup for the fries.  Your true cost on an item may be higher than you think.  

I hope this helps.  Feel free to email me directly and I will send you what I can, Zora.

David Foster
(417) 877-0428 office
(417) 849-1903 cell  

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David Foster


Any questions related to restaurants, restaurant management, restaurant start-ups as well as culinary and food-related questions.


I am a seasoned foodservice veteran with nearly 45 years experience in the industry. My extensive background includes overseeing multi-unit, multi-concept restaurant operations ranging from cafeterias to fine dining, and everything in between. I have a strong hands-on operations and marketing background that give me a unique insight into the “Real World” challenges of the restaurant industry. I have extensive concept development, menu and recipe development and kitchen layout and design expertise. I am effective in analyzing operational needs and identifying practical solutions in today’s very dynamic foodservice environment. In the industry, I am respected by my peers and have served on the Board of Directors of the Missouri Restaurant Association and have been a featured speaker on the subject of Home Meal Replacement at various national events. I served on the Culinary Advisory Board of the Ozark Technical College as well as being a guest instructor at Missouri State University.

Member of the National Restaurant Association, Past Board Member of the Missouri Restaurant Association, Past Board Member of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Ozarks

The Consultant, Seasoned Views, QSR Magazine, Foodservice Equipment Reports

Attended Drury College, Springfield, MO, Varsity Management, SRI

Awards and Honors
I have had restaurant projects featured in The Consultant (a magazine for foodservice consultants with worldwide circulation). I was honored for achieving the highest level of management competence by the Selection Research Institute.

Past/Present Clients
Holiday Inn Hilton Garden Inn TownePlace Suites Buffalo Run Casino Golden Corral Corporation Crosswinds Café Chinese Chef Mr. Dunderbak's Old World Market & Café Bullfeather’s Wings and Grille, Mainstreet Market Bear Rock Café, Cartoon's Oyster Bar & Grill T's Redneck Roadhouse Jim's Steakhouse Neighbor's Mill Bakery & Café Crazy Vine San Francisco Oven Maria's Mexican Restaurant Andy's Frozen Custard The Granite Club Umi Japanese Steaks, Seafood and Sushi Hero's Coffee Mac 'N More South & Walnut Bruegger's Bagels KFC A&W PIzza Hut A Taste of India Benton Square Springfield Grocer Company US Foodservice Premium Standard Farms Smithfield Dakota Organic Meyer Natural Foods Kraft Foods Allens, Inc. Swift Pork USA

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