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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Menu Engineering and How to Make it Work for You

Your menu can be one of your best marketing tools if used correctly. Many restaurants open their doors without fully understanding their menu’s anticipated profitability.  The menu should also be written to encourage customers to select the most profitable items.  It should draw on the customers’ emotions and expectations to create the desired results you want.

Let's talk “sweet spots”. Every menu should have them. These are not desserts, but are the areas of the menu that immediately capture your customer’s attention as soon as they open your menu. Basically, a customer will remember the first item and the last item they see, so you will want to present your high profit items in these places. Another theory is that most customers will look to upper right hand corner of the menu first before going on to the read the rest of it.
Good quality food photos of your menu items is another great way to get your customers to purchase those items. Many menus only show photos of the items that drive the most profit. The last thing you want is a photo of every single menu item, but done with control, this is an effective tactic.

Have you noticed in the past few years that menus no longer have dollar signs on them? Many also have dropped the final digit. No longer do you see a dish for 12.90, it now reads 12.9.  The perception is that when a person sees a dollar sign or the full number amount, they tend to spend less money.

Finally, and most often overlooked...words! Describe your items in a way that makes your customer feel they must try that item. A great descriptive sentence or two about your dish, the special ingredients, or how it's specially prepared, will go a long way in getting customers to order it. If you feel you are not a great writer, hire one.

The main goal of menu engineering is to encourage purchase of specific items, preferably the most profitable ones, and to discourage the purchase of the least profitable items on your menu. To achieve this, you must know the cost of all your menu items. Once you know your highest profit menu items, you can arrange them on your menu to produce the best return by working the “sweet spots”.

Once you have determined your best items and your placement of them on your menu, there are additional ways to catch the eye of your customer. Placing a bold border around a menu item will make it stand out. Stars are extremely popular on menus today. They are being used to indicate great value or a limited special. Hearts are placed on menus to point out the healthy options. Changing your type face on certain items, putting some items in bold type face or the use of color text all are helpful as well.

Not all these will work for all restaurants. Much has to do with what type of customer you have, what foods you serve, what your price-points are and so on. However, the basics of menu engineering for any type of restaurant are always the same: highlight your high profit items, downplay your low profit items and guide your customer selections to help your bottom-line. It is important your restaurant bookkeeping and POS system keep track of the results enabling you to take corrective action along the way for continued menu profitability. 

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