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Sarah Ward

Menus for Cafes: 12 Menu Categories for Cafe Businesses

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Learning about menus for cafes is a delightful part of learning how to open a cafe, for all types of cafes. It’s a part of the customer experience and customer satisfaction of your cafe, from hosting brunch to your cozy dinner hours. Customer retention strategies and restaurant tech support can play into designing menus for cafes to maximize cafe potential.

While you’re learning how much it costs to open a cafe, diving into cafe inventory management, and writing a cafe business plan, keep your menus as a top priority. You need a menu mockup for your business plan and for licensing purposes, and it also helps you get ready for customers. Having your menu plan gives you a tangible step forward toward opening your cafe. 

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Menu Categories for Cafes

These 12 menu categories for cafes cover the basics of what you can and should serve at your cafe. You can pick and choose from this list, and work with your executive chef for those decisions. You can also use all of these! Which ones are best for you will depend on the type of cafe you’re opening and what your goal is for the business. 

12. Pastries

The pastry section of your menu is a classic cafe offering. Your pastries could be breakfast items, dessert items, or perfect for any time of day. You just can’t go wrong with pastries for a cafe business. If you can have a part of your kitchen be viewable for customers, so they can see the making of the pastries, it’ll be an extra special experience. 

11. Brunch Menus

A good brunch menu is ideal for any cafe specializing in brunch offerings. The rise of brunch as a popular meal over recent years has made this an even more important part of menus for cafes. From mimosas to eggs Benedict, perfecting this type of menu is key.

10. To-Go Specialty Items

To–go specialty items fill a specific niche in the world of cafes. The COVID-19 pandemic ramped up the love of to-go orders from peoples’ favorite restaurants. You can play into that by having a specific to-go menu section with items that are equally delicious when they’ve traveled home.

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9. Desserts

A dessert menu is a classic for any type of restaurant, bar, brunch cafe, or any type of cafe. Having a mix of sweet and savory dessert options will make your dessert menu a must-taste for anyone enjoying time at your cafe. 

8. Soups and Salads

Soups and salads are another classic no matter the place or theme of your cafe business. A mix of soups and salads that mix well together and with other items across your menu is the best plan. You should have at least four options for each.

7. Appetizers

Having a strong list of appetizers on menus for cafes brings people in the door for a quick bite or for the prelude of a longer meal. Your appetizers should include a mix of classic appetizers and specialty items specific to your type of cafe.

6. Domestic and Imported Beer

Domestic and imported beers come into play with the alcoholic beverages section of your cafe menu. For your beer selections, a mix of domestic and imported options will keep all your beer-loving customers happy. A good mix will also be helpful if there is ever any issue with the supply chain.

5. Specialty Cocktails

Specialty cocktails also join the party of your mixed drinks and 21 and over beverages. Having a mix of cocktail ingredients and classic cocktails available gives your cafe a punchy edge. Some cafe-specific cocktails, named after personal touches in your cafe, are a great way to make this part of your menu unique.

4. Coffee and Tea

Your coffee and tea lists for menus for cafes need to be immaculate. There are going to be customers who come in specifically to enjoy breakfast and brunch. Having excellent sources for your coffee and tea, and serving them up in aesthetically pleasing ways will exceed the expectations of your morning and early afternoon customers.

3. Wine Lists

Having great wine lists is a must for any bar or restaurant type of business. Your wine lists should complement your menu items. You can also lean into seasonal wine options, with summer white wine treats and red wine surprises in the colder months.

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2. Entrees 

The best entrees can make or break a restaurant or cafe business. Put care into your entrees, and make them pair-able with other options on your menu. Your customers will come in for the drinks and appetizers and keep coming back for the entrees. 

1. Signature Dishes

Signature dishes mean something different to every cafe. Whatever you are most passionate about, make it a signature dish. If you have something with a unique ingredient, it belongs on this part of your menu. 

"Key Takeaway: Learning about menus for cafes is a delightful part of learning how to open a cafe, for all types of cafes."

Coffee Pairing Ideas

One of the ways to increase sales of cafe food items is to offer coffee pairings. This way, customers are more likely to purchase cafe food to go with their flavorful beverage. Here are a few coffee pairing ideas.

  1. Chocolate. Cocoa seeds have given us one of the favorite desserts around the world – chocolate. It pairs very well with coffee. The bitter taste of dark chocolate can either be in contrast with lightly roasted coffee or complement bitter and strong coffee. Milk and white chocolate can also be paired with coffee to give an energizing start to the day.
  2. Baked goods. It’s no surprise that cookies, muffins, croissants, and other baked goods are common cafe menu items. Cafe staff can easily upsell these products to coffee enjoyers.
  3. Fruits. In many cultures, coffee is paired with fruits like berries or citrus fruits. Berries can highlight the flavor of lightly roasted coffee while citrus fruits can accentuate the taste of dark roasts. 
  4. Savory food. From classical tea sandwiches to breakfast cheese boards, various savory foods can be considered cafe foods.

In addition to adding coffee pairings as cafe menu items, businesses like coffee shops can increase their revenue if they offer extensive to-go options. These can be both sweet and savory. Protein bars are a good example of a nutritious, delicious, and healthy option for cafe food to-go. Wraps can also be an excellent option as they are easy to eat even while you walk.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cafe Menus

The topic of menus for cafes covers many types of food and drinks, as well as cafe business plans. There are plenty of questions that will come up along the way as you plan your menu options and your cafe in general. Our answers to these frequently asked questions will get you headed in the right direction.

What are Good Foods for a Cafe?

Some good foods for a cafe include:

  • Sandwiches
  • Soups and salads
  • Breakfast items
  • Pastries and desserts
  • Coffee and tea
  • Specialty dishes
  • Classic entrees

These foods are a good representation of the foods you should serve in a cafe. Beyond these, you can mix in specialized foods and anything unique to you, to make your cafe a special place.

How Many Menu Items Should a Cafe Have?

A cafe should have at least three to five options under each headed section of its menu. From breakfast to lunch to desserts to brunch, a minimum of five is a good place to start. You can expand your menu in your specialization areas, or wherever you find to be the most popular parts of the menu.

How Do I Plan a Cafe Business Menu?

The best way to plan a cafe business menu is to get together the dishes you want to serve and compare them against a few cafes with similarities to yours. From there, you may add more dishes and remove some. You can tie this planning into inventory program planning by mapping out the ingredients for each menu item as you go. 

How Can I Make My Cafe Stand Out?

Some of the best ways you can make your cafe stand out are excellent customer service, delicious food and drinks, and passion for your business. When you care about your cafe, your customers, and your staff, that will shine through in everything you do. Make sure to put care into every step of the journey, for your happiness and the success of your business.

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Cafe Menus: What Cafe Treats Will You Serve Up? 

When it comes to designing and creating menus for cafes, there’s plenty of work to do. Once you’re set with your menus and your cafe plan, reach out to BinWise and BlueCart. The BinWise Pro inventory program, paired with the BinScan mobile app, eases the process when you take inventory. BlueCart’s order management software streamlines your order management system.

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