At a time when food inflation for meals purchased away from home has surpassed inflation for meals prepared at home, consumers are behaving differently toward restaurants. A recent CNBC report said that according to research from AlixPartners, consumers are not simply trading down to less expensive restaurant options in an effort to save money right now. Rather, they are cutting out restaurant meals altogether. So every meal you sell must help you generate the greatest profit you can. Does your menu help you accomplish that, while also meeting your guests’ expectations? Engineering your menu every time you update it can help, potentially increasing restaurant profits by 10-15 percent when done an an ongoing basis.
Tap into human psychology to help lead guests to the items you want to sell. It helps to limit guests’ choice of menu items, ideally to around seven items or less per category, and make it easy for them to skim your options with the help of readable menu fonts and clear category headings and dish titles. Webstaurant Store advises operators use appetite-triggering colors like red, orange and yellow to draw attention to certain parts of the menu, as well as language that invokes comfort or connection — think “Grandma’s apple pie” or “Chef Paul’s favorite fettuccine.” Keep your dessert menu separate so guests don’t see it early and cut back on appetizers earlier in the meal. Use photos only sparingly on the menu. Save them for promoting your menu on your website and social media.
Toast further recommends restaurant operators sort menu items into “stars” (high profit and popularity), “puzzles” (high profit and low popularity), “plowhorses” (low profit and high popularity) and “dogs” (low profit and popularity). Make sure your stars are prepared consistently, then promote them frequently and make them visible on the menu. Try to understand why your puzzles aren’t selling and make adjustments — could they be described better or located in more prominent places on the menu? Make plowhorses more profitable by adjusting the recipe to include more cost-effective ingredients or pairing these items with more profitable side dishes and beverages. Dogs are taking up space on your menu — try reinventing them with new ingredients and promotion, or replacing them with items that are more popular with guests and generate more profit for your business.