restaurant menu

Restaurant Menu: Where Every Great Turnaround Started

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Last Updated on November 12, 2021

If ever there were a time to invest in restaurant menu strategy, surely it should be now. The issues of labor shortages, supply chain constraints, cost inflation, optimization for digital and delivery, brand differentiation, enhanced productivity, kitchen complexity, bottlenecks, guest experience, order accuracy, maintaining relevance and competitiveness — nearly all of these issues have roots in the menu.

To get it right requires a CEO-level mandate, as such an initiative involves a dedicated team authorized to work across functional lines and hierarchies for weeks on end (which is why so few chains harvest the full value such an endeavor can yield when done properly). It can be time-consuming, laborious, and costly; but it can also meaningfully contribute to profitable revenue growth as well as benefit the organization across a wide spectrum of intangibles.

Menu engineering is the spring cleaning equivalent in the industry. Menus, SKUs, inventory, POS data, etc. — they tend to attract clutter just like a utility drawer. Not everyone enjoys cleaning out and organizing a messy garage or attic, but everyone does feel better once it’s done.

Our Most-Read Menu Insights

Every great restaurant chain turnaround has started with the menu. Here are some of our most-read menu insights to give some guidance to help you get it right. 

Questions to Answer Before Launching a New Menu

Prior to taking the important steps needed to make a new menu live, these are some of the questions we use as prompts to help ensure all of the bases are covered throughout the process.

It’s Time to Free the Guest from the Tyranny of Choice

Humans have a remarkable ability to over-complicate. Some studies show that the average person makes an overwhelming 35,000 choices per day.

While we all think we want more options, this comes with a paradox of choice. There is such a thing as too many options. This has certainly been true in recent years for restaurant chains that lacked the discipline to prune and manicure their menus.

How to Shore Up Margin Erosion with Menu Strategy

Margins are being compressed for restaurants and foodservice operators around the world. But the choice between driving revenue and improving margins does not have to be binary; both can be improved while catching a wider net of performance improvements.

Signature Items Can Drive Brand Turnarounds

Nearly every successful restaurant turnaround had a new menu strategy as a cornerstone of its brand renaissance. In fact, one could argue that signature items are what created category leaders in virtually every industry segment. Here’s how to leverage a signature menu item and signature culinary strategy.

The Psychology of Menu Design

From where the prices appear to the color of the text, menu design has a powerful impact on what guests order. Leveraging the psychology of menu design can increase sales without having to change a single menu item.

How Menus (and More) Can Optimize Your Food Costs

Is your menu properly aligned with existing and emerging consumer dining behaviors and trends that could impact purchase price, frequency, check average, and product preferences? Have you conducted a menu mix, daypart mix, and profit center mix analysis to identify potential opportunities in the last six months? More questions to help optimize costs here.

20 Most Common Menu Design Mistakes

Think of the menu as a piece of real estate and restaurateurs as the landlords. Are all the renters (menu items) paying their fair share? Here are some of the most common menu design mistakes we see.

Menu Design to Reinvigorate Your Restaurant

Menus are one of the most complex aspects of one of the most complex businesses in the world. Those who’ve made it past a slump have often done so by designing a new menu that revisits their brand’s DNA and purpose, in a way that honors the past, but ensures it continues to be relevant today and in the future.

Effective Menu Strategy Must Be Holistic

One of the surest and quickest means to improving performance for a restaurant chain is through effective menu engineering strategies. It’s about more than tactical design, merchandising techniques, promotional tactics, and pricing strategies though.

When done correctly, a holistic improvement is possible that also delivers benefits in terms of operational efficiency, brand and competitive differentiation, media interest that garners positive publicity, guest appeal that stimulates new trial and frequency, sustainable lifts to sales and profitability, and even reinvigorated morale and employee engagement at the unit level.

We help with quantitative analysis led by data scientists and then incorporate findings into new product, pricing, presentation, and positioning recommendations. Working with your designers, our team provides menu engineering insights (placement, descriptions, menu psychology, behavioral economics, industrial engineering principles, etc.) to showcase and improve menu merchandising, resulting in an immediate impact for same-store sales growth and meaningful margin improvements.

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