Twice per year, you should go through a complete menu engineering and create your menu again to weed out low performers. Everyone that goes to Harvard is smart but there’s still a top 10% and bottom 10%. Meaning, of all the really smart kids that go to Harvard, there are still a top 10% that’s smartest of the smart and a bottom 10% that’s at the bottom of the pecking order. Likewise, no matter how well you create your menu is there will still be a top 10% that produce the sales and profits and a bottom 10% that don’t carry their weight. At least twice per year, you should go through a complete menu engineering and design process and weed out those bottom 10%.
Create a Menu Engineering Scatter Chart
The simplest way to approach this process when you create your menu is to put all of your menu items in a 2×2 scatter chart (standard economic model) and identify any items showing up in the bottom quadrants. Anything in the bottom quadrants should be Killed, Modified, or Repositioned.
Increasing an Item’s Contribution
Some items could increase in their contribution when you create your menu by being redeveloped (such as adding lump crab meat to a fish dish to increase it’s price/contribution). Some could be simply repositioned on the menu (maybe they have real potential to contribute sales and profits but are buried in a low-rent area of the menu; putting the item in a high-rent area of the menu could give it the needed boost).
Invariably though, there are items in the bottom which just have to be discontinued. This can sometimes be painful internally (i.e. “I love a peanut butter and banana sandwich, I just don’t understand why it’s not selling.”) Discontinuing an item can be like throwing out a favorite old pair of running shoes, but such is life – the old must give way to the new to keep things fresh and vibrant. If you discontinue an item and get backlash, you can always turn this into an advantage (check out the Coke Classic and New Coke case study to see how they did it).