Menu Engineering: How It Can Help Drive Your Profits

Menus come in many styles, sizes, colors, materials, and fonts but they all have one major component in common; menus are the most effective tool in communicating with your customer. Menu engineering is “how” you can entice your customer’s to spend more money and drive profitability.

Here are 7 basic strategies to consider when designing your menu:

  1. The amount of menu descriptions depends on the level of service you intend to offer. If you’re a fast casual establishment, then your descriptions have to convey how the dish will look and taste. But if you’re a fine dining establishment,  then you can pare down descriptions to pertinent ingredients because you’re depending on the server’s ability to provide your customers with more detail.
  2. Bigger is not better when it comes to menus. How much value can you offer when you have to make substandard decisions about quality in order to maintain a large inventory? You’ll get more value by carefully selecting menu items that offer wide range appeal, cross utilizing ingredients and making execution easier. This will offer your guests more experience than the mega chain with a book for a menu.
  3. Our eyes naturally drift to the upper right hand corner so this is your prime real estate.  If you place a signature item here, especially if it’s highlighted it with a border or graphics, you will sell more. Another way to capitalize on this prime real estate is to place a higher priced item, called an anchor or decoy, so the dishes afterwards seem less expensive.
  4. Organization and placement are key to maximizing the profitability of your dishes. If an item is less approachable and/or more profitable, placing it just above the midline will increase it’s move-ability. Conversely, standard items that always sell should be located near the bottom.
  5. In todays financial climate, minimizing the impact of cost is important. You draw less attention and gain more perceived value by not using dollar signs, rounding to the nearest quarters versus the 99s, and eliminating unnecessary zeros.
  6. While photos are effective at selling items, not all menus should have them. Pictures  are generally associated with lowbrow establishments. Alternately, you can highlight items and add design elements with graphics while still keeping your integrity.
  7. Keeping your menu updated is a great way to adjust to changing availability and costs but it doesn’t work for every restaurant. But even restaurants with a well established customer base should periodically re-examine their menu to ensure that you are still capturing the most profits you can.

Chef U Consulting can help you find the magic combination with new menu items, re-designs and seasonal changes.

Originally published 2/25/13