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There’s more to it than just good food | 4 tips to improve menu performance

While we could talk all day about factoring in what customers want, getting the design right or how to launch new offerings, we want to focus on the business side of menu planning – nailing the mix so you’ve got a menu that’s not only pretty, but profitable.

Here are our 4 tips to improve menu profitability, and make a menu that ticks all the boxes.

By Chloe Chaplin

Having a killer menu is hands-down one of the most critical parts of running a restaurant. It’s one of the first impressions customers get of your venue, what you’re all about and what to expect, and a great menu can really set the tone for a meal and get people excited for what’s to come.

The food-cost factor

Managing food costs is an inevitable part of running a restaurant, and it’s just as important in planning your menu. It’s important to consider how much you pay for the ingredients you’re using to make your dishes and factoring this into the decision around what dishes you’ll serve and how much you’re going to charge your customers for them.

Keep in mind that ingredients aren’t the only thing you’re charging for. Everything involved in getting a dish to the table should be factored into the thought process when pricing your menu. Chef costs, server costs, clean-up costs, rent costs… it’s all part of the package, so thinking bigger than just what’s written on the page is key to not pricing yourself out of business.

Size isn’t everything

Sometimes it can be tempting to fill your menu with lots of options in an attempt to wow your customers and make sure there’s something for everyone. We get it, you’ve got so many dishes you’re proud of, so why not show them off, right?

While jam-packed menus work for some venues, often it can be wise to give your lineup a little edit before it hits the floor. Not only does a shorter menu allow you to focus on perfecting every single dish, but the reduction in choices also means you can buy fewer ingredients, generate less waste and provide quicker service.

In addition to economic reasons, the fact is that short menus are trendy right now. More and more people want to put their faith in chefs and venues to satisfy their taste buds, and they don’t want to be overwhelmed by more options than they need. A tight, perfectly balanced offering shows confidence and clarity, and customers will eat it up.


Have you heard the specials?

Working specials into your menu rotation is a win-win. Customers like to be offered something off-menu that showcases seasonal produce, the chef’s whim or just something… special.

For venues, the addition of specials also has some internal benefits that make them a popular option for those trying to keep their offering viable. It might be that the kitchen has an abundance of a certain ingredient that needs to be used up, or you might have some premium ingredients, with a premium price tag, that work better as add-ons to the menu when it comes to getting the price-mix right.

And don’t forget the ever-present FOMO factor. Specials are special – it’s right there in the title –  meaning their availability is inherently limited, by design. Spruiking these hot-off-the-press, one-night-only, omg-don’t-miss-out-dishes to your loyal followers on the interwebs can create anticipation and ultimately drive business.

Beware of the underachievers

We know. Every dish on your menu has been agonised over and prepped lovingly and if customers would just order the damn thing they would appreciate how great it is.

The fact is though, sometimes part of a successful menu is knowing when to call it quits on a dish. Sure, it might be the chef’s baby or a riff on a family favourite, but if no one wants it, night after night, you’re simply putting yourself through a whole lotta prep just to be left with a whole lotta waste (and angst).

If a dish isn’t performing you should have a look at how it’s being sold – is it described deliciously and accurately? Is the price right? Is it in the right spot on the page? Based on the answers to these questions, tweaks can be made, but at the end of the day, if it’s still not moving, it needs to go and make room for something that will.

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