Menu improvements for 2022

In a restaurant and cafe, your menu is the #1 sales document – how well is it performing?

Menu in a cafe

Check Profit Margins:

Fewer choices: it’s time to delete the least popular 10% of items off the menu – will anyone notice? Fewer items will mean fewer ingredients.

• Smaller serves: can the mega-serve be trimmed and presented on a different plate?

• Update the Recipe Cards: the day after a menu is costed it’s usually out of date, unless you’re updating ingredient costs. This is a job for the chef’s assistant or office staff, using cloud-based recipe software.

• Are there enough high-profit items? Sure, you use the best ingredients, but there need to be some items with a low food cost to balance out those that cost much more. There’s a reason for ribs and chicken wings – have another look.

• Raise prices, and explain. This can be scary at times, but what’s the alternative when ingredient costs keep rising?

Check Popularity and Range:

• Is healthy also fun? Do the lighter items sound exciting, or no better than what you could make at home? This is an easy way to stand out from everyone else stuck with vegetarian lasagne.

• No wheat, no problem. Whether it’s gluten-free, low-fat or low-carb, there’s a significant demand for menu items that allow for ‘my special diet’.

• Happy kids and families. A good menu needs items that keep parent stress levels low. And many parents also want a healthy angle for their fussy darlings: grilled chicken, not nuggets.

• The menu answers the questions. Full descriptions mean the customer is ready to order when the waiter arrives – it saves lots of time. Make sure problem choices are covered: ‘the chilli beans are spicy, not hot’.

• Something new: for the 10% of customers who always look for change and novelty, there are specials, or enough choices to keep them from being bored.

• Something predictable: for the other 90% who want the same as last time, there’s a certainty to the menu that keeps them coming back.

• Delicious sweet treats. You need a fruity option, a warm pudding, chocolate, creamy, frozen and one that we can pretend won’t add weight. Desserts can be highly profitable and send people away with a smile.

• Is there too much ‘him’ or too much ‘her’? Are there items they will both enjoy? Steak or salad – a good menu needs both and not just one token item.

• Avoid the menu veto. Your seafood restaurant will have visitors who don’t like fish, and your chargrill will have vegetarians visiting. Make sure there are delicious choices or they will veto a return visit.

• Are there enough extras? You need three salad choices, not just one, and at least two bread options – all drawn from the same base ingredients.

• Easy to deliver – most items will pack into a container, and arrive looking fresh and attractive.

Check Design and Production:

• Printing: easy to produce and easy to change. Ideally designed on your computer, then printed and laminated in-house.

• Wall menus: are they easy to read from any angle?

• Location: do the most profitable items have prime location on the menu? If they make the best gross profit, they should be first in a section.

• Price shape: are prices designed to grab the extra 50c? $12.50 or $12.80, not $12.00.

• Skim or read? Some people want to look through quickly, and others want to read every word. A smart menu allows for both, with clear sections and headings eg Sirloin Steak, plus ingredient and cooking details for those who want lots of information.

• Fewer pages, full of information: use 2 columns rather than one, and 2 pages rather than 4.

• Downloadable copies on the website in PDF format, plus a special menu page with highlights or the full list.

• Easy to read and use on an ordering app – essential items plus modifiers (extras), supported by attractive photos.

Ken Burgin - SilverChef