Case Study

De­sign­ing a menu around th­ese el­e­ments in­stantly drives up profit

F&B World - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - Text by PE­DRONG PUTI Il­lus­tra­tion by MARK MAGNAYE

In­vest in a good chef and ex­cel­lent ser­vice to drive sales, but make sure your menu isn’t left out

Much like a crys­tal ball, menus give cus­tomers a good idea of what the restau­rant is about. The decor might tip them off about the kind of cui­sine served, but it is es­sen­tially the run­down of dishes that will be­gin to work up cus­tomers’ ap­petites. In the same way that the am­bi­ence might draw peo­ple closer and en­cour­age in­quiries, it is the menu that will even­tu­ally have them hooked and lured in. Peo­ple might see a menu sim­ply as a piece of pa­per, but the busi­ness-minded restau­ra­teur knows that it can be an ef­fi­cient mar­ket­ing tool that mer­its study and at­ten­tion. To take full ad­van­tage of the menu, one must rely on menu en­gi­neer­ing where proper anal­y­sis and strate­gies are em­ployed to in­crease the prof­itabil­ity and pop­u­lar­ity of the en­listed food items. It is a me­thod­i­cal eval­u­a­tion of the dishes in re­la­tion to their con­tri­bu­tion to net prof­its. So while cus­tomers see de­li­cious food in print, the man­agers see po­ten­tial for a sales in­crease.

The Case of Chas­ing Stars

Menu items typ­i­cally fall un­der one of four clas­si­fi­ca­tions: Star = high sales, high profit Puz­zle = low sales, high profit Plow Horse = high sales, low profit Dog = poor sales, low profit Not all items can be Stars and your menu def­i­nitely does not re­quire Stars. What it needs is bal­ance.

Con­sult­ing for a restau­rant that had been open for 24 months was a real eye opener. The owner was con­cerned and called us to help with their se­lec­tion, as they had no idea how to up­date and im­prove their menu. They re­lied on gut feel and af­ter hav­ing a very strong first 12 months, they no­ticed a drop in prof­its in the year that fol­lowed. When we an­a­lyzed the menu, we dis­cov­ered that the chef had up­dated the menu 12 months be­fore and the owner had too many Dogs and Plow Horses on the menu. The pric­ing strat­egy was a mess and for­mu­lated with­out logic or plan­ning. They also had re­moved some of their high­profit items that were not sell­ing (Puz­zles). As our plan of ac­tion, we ad­vised them to bring some of th­ese dishes back and present them on the menu dif­fer­ently with ad­justed prices. Six months into em­ploy­ing this, some of the dishes that ini­tially had not sold be­fore be­came Stars. Con­sider th­ese rules and ac­tions for each cat­e­gory:

Star (High Profit/High Sales) – Do not touch th­ese items. They are the restau­rant’s bread and but­ter and are al­ready bring­ing you a high mar­gin. Train your staff to push th­ese menu items and en­cour­age your staff to en­sure that they sell side dishes to ev­ery ta­ble.

Puz­zle (High Profit/Low Sales) – Th­ese are items that need to be played with. They may make money but they do not sell well. There are rea­sons for this and you must take ac­tion to try to turn them into Stars. Tac­tics that can be used in­clude re­word­ing the de­scrip­tion of the item, ad­just­ing the price slightly, po­si­tion­ing it dif­fer­ently on the menu, or high­light­ing it as a chef ’s rec­om­mended dish. You also need to an­a­lyze if peo­ple are not or­der­ing the dish be­cause it is not ap­peal­ing or be­cause it does not re­ceive good feed­back.

Plow Horse (High Sales/Low Profit) – Th­ese items make your team work hard but do not re­ward you fi­nan­cially. They are like a horse plow­ing the field; it does get the job done but only achieves 1/10 of what a ma­chine could do. Th­ese menu items are pop­u­lar and sell well, there­fore you can­not and should not dis­re­gard them. In­stead, you should ad­just the price or por­tion size to in­crease your profit mar­gin.

Dog (Low Profit/Low Sales) – Get rid of them! There’s no point for them to be there.

The Case of THE 100-DISH MENU

An­other fac­tor in menu en­gi­neer­ing is de­sign, po­si­tion­ing, de­scrip­tions, and the use of code, pic­tures, font color, and font size—el­e­ments that de­fine the restau­rant’s iden­tity.

Menu de­sign should not be an af­ter­thought, as it is one of the most cru­cial com­po­nents of an es­tab­lish­ment. It can make the de­ci­sion for the cus­tomer and spell the dif­fer­ence be­tween a cus­tomer stay­ing or leav­ing. There are so many ques­tions to ask when de­sign­ing the menu. What font should be used? Should the menu in­clude pic­tures? Is the menu flex­i­ble enough to be changed eas­ily? Can it be up­dated fre­quently? When the menu is dirty

or stained, can it be cleaned eas­ily or does it have to be to­tally re­placed? Th­ese are just some of the ba­sic ques­tions any restau­ra­teur needs to go through. The un­for­tu­nate re­al­ity is that most peo­ple and es­tab­lish­ments don’t care about their menus and just try to make some­thing that looks cool or saves them money.

A client of ours was open­ing a new es­tab­lish­ment and wanted a menu that would al­low the chef to ad­just the items al­most on a daily ba­sis. There was one prob­lem though: the menu he cre­ated had over 100 items in it. Yes, 100! To have a menu that is flex­i­ble and can be ad­justed al­most daily, it should be kept to a min­i­mum and have a spe­cific iden­tity, oth­er­wise the changes would be lost.

Large menus have a ten­dency to lack fo­cus. They take longer to or­der from and also re­quire more in­gre­di­ents. A large menu also means longer ticket times or a lot of items pre-cooked and then re­heated, thus di­min­ish­ing qual­ity. When you have too many dif­fer­ent dishes cook­ing at the same time and not enough of the same items in the same pans, you’ll spend more time pro­duc­ing or­ders. As a con­se­quence, each ta­ble takes longer to serve, and you’ll turn them over at a slower rate.

Af­ter study­ing the sit­u­a­tion, we ad­vised the client to de­sign a sta­ble menu with pic­tures and a well spaced out de­sign. We did not re­duce their orig­i­nal menu much but for their spe­cial menu items, we pur­chased an LED screen, which was built into the restau­rant de­sign and show­cased the spe­cials as well as im­ages of their drinks and dishes. This worked ex­cep­tion­ally well with no ad­di­tional costs in print­ing, ink, and la­bor hours. The es­tab­lish­ment also saw an in­crease in drink sales and Puz­zle dishes, as they show­cased im­ages of their low-sell­ing and high-profit menu items.

In to­day’s fast-paced and ever-chang­ing world, menus are be­ing re­de­fined. They are be­com­ing more cre­ative and are in­tro­duc­ing the world of technology into the mix. Peo­ple are us­ing natural com­po­nents like stones, wood, bam­boo, and co­conut shell; rein­vent­ing the black­board and the clip menu; and even in­tro­duc­ing tablets. All of th­ese are great, but the rules and logic be­hind how the menu is writ­ten, struc­tured, and pre­sented have not changed for cen­turies. And for good rea­son. Be­cause they work. In­dus­try notes: 1. Group your most prof­itable items to­gether. Build your menu around pop­u­lar items. 2. Let your menu be a tour guide. This can be ac­com­plished through photos and/or cre­ative text. 3. Keep menus clean. No grease and no food or wa­ter stains. Get rid of worn-out or torn menus. Make sure that they are checked be­fore ev­ery ser­vice time. Make sure your staff is thor­oughly trained and has mem­o­rized the menu. Make sure that you have items for your staff to up­sell. Sides, small ap­pe­tiz­ers, and snacks are per­fect ways to in­crease cus­tomer spend. 4. Up­date your menu and prices at least twice a year. 5. If your menu is unique, con­sider hav­ing de­scrip­tions for the dishes. 6. Don’t for­get to put your menu on­line and en­sure that it is kept up-to­date. It should be eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble from a mo­bile phone.

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