How long should a menu be in length? That depends on what your menu is being used for. Menu can vary in cycle length from one to 8 weeks or more. Again there is no right or wrong answer so long as your menu meets the needs of the people the menu is designed for.
Menu for hospitals will have shorter cycle lengths due to the duration in which the majority of patients spend in hospital and it is now common for a person to be in hospital for 1 to 2 days. Meals and snacks are provided over the day but the patient may have access to other food supplies by visitors or use of on-site vending machines, coffee shops or cafeterias. The hospital will supply menus and work with either a pre-ordered system of room service where patients order when they are ready to eat thus allowing a more static menu with increased choice.
Aged Care Home’s menu cycles tend to be longer to meet the needs of residents who do not have access to an outside food supply. Therefore all meals and snacks are provided throughout the day. Residents may have access to food items from outings, family or an onsite coffee/snack shop, but usually these are only small food items. The majority of meals are provided by the menu in the home.
Educational menus for a university or boarding school are based on the cycle, but consist of more types of food selection and buffet dining where students would help themselves or even make up items such as salads and sandwiches.
A menu for Meals on Wheels again can have a cycle length up to 4+ weeks but mainly centred on providing one meal usually the lunch meal. This can consist of soups, meal and dessert but does vary. Some services may offer other meals like breakfast and snack packs.
Creating long cycle length menus requires extensive meal knowledge to avoid repetition within the menu pattern. It is important to have good food knowledge as well as what food suppliers are able to provide to enhance menu development.