Your restaurant’s menu is not merely a list of the food items and beverages you offer. Behind each menu is a story or a brilliant concept.
Your menu has done much for your restaurant, earning you a loyal following. Currently, your restaurant is doing well. The mere thought of changing anything on it hasn’t entered your mind. After all, why fix something which isn’t broken, right?
The case for changing up your menu
If your restaurant has not been performing impressively, it is only logical to look into every facet of the business. But if things are going well, why should you touch anything on your menu?
There are various reasons why restaurants try to change things up with their offerings. However, there are three critical things that you need to account when you are evaluating the performance of your menu items:
- Changing tastes
The tastes of diners change and evolve over time. Today, customers are often inspired to try new things, motivated heavily by social media trends.
Although it is possible to stay true to your original vision and maintain the same menu, you might be risking losing your loyal patrons by being stubborn. If you cannot offer your customers anything new, they’ll set their sights on establishments that can satisfy their cravings.
Before revamping your menu, it is critical to keep tabs on what is gaining traction in the market. It is easier to do this now with websites and social media platforms that you can check out. Usually, industry leaders provide insights that you can use in your decision-making.
Under no circumstance should you check the offerings of big chain restaurants. By the time these establishments begin following trends, those trends may have already reached their peak.
- Increasing ingredient prices
Restaurants need to find the right balance between making profits and ensuring that they offer great value for money for their diners.
The prices of ingredients can fluctuate due to numerous factors. You can either take lower profits or pass on the burden of increased ingredient prices to your customers. The trouble with the latter is that most customers are aware of the costs of many ingredients. For high-demand items, you can either strike these off your menu or risk taking a loss.
- Increasing labor costs
Human resources are a crucial challenge for many restaurants. On one hand, as more and more restaurants open, the number of qualified and available hires dwindles in number.
Further complicating matters are the associated costs, from hiring and training to wages and benefits.
If your labor costs are steadily increasing, you might want to offset that by tweaking your menu.
How often should you change your menu?
Ideally, you should evaluate your menu annually. This will help ensure that your food costs enable you to make a good profit.
Food costs can fluctuate due to numerous reasons. These include the changing of seasons, floods and droughts, and excess supply of some ingredients.
For most restaurants, updating their menus seasonally does not work. Quite simply, your customers can grow frustrated, finding their favorite items constantly fluctuating in price. On the other hand, if you run a fine dining restaurant with a prix fixe (fixed price) menu, you can update your menu seasonally.
During this review, it is worthwhile to include the ingredients you use, portion sizes, and emerging food trends. Your restaurant POS system is an invaluable tool for this task. Most modern systems can generate usage reports on the items on your menu.
Usage reports can tell you which items are moving well and which ones are moving sluggishly. Checking the usage reports will help you decide not only to determine which items should be stricken off the menu; more than that, these reports can help you decide whether to add or subtract more items from your menu.
How to revamp your menu
Making changes to your menu can be a daunting process. To make things easier for you, here are a few essential tips that can help you:
- Start small
Instead of doing a complete overhaul of the menu, consider first introducing a few minor changes that will enable you to retain your restaurant’s identity, and avoid alienating loyal customers.
But aside from changing food items, you might also want to consider a few changes in the back room.
Perhaps you might want to try different ingredients for a popular food item. Or maybe you can use a more cost-effective process that nets the same result.
These small changes might be noticeable to your loyal diners, but can bring better results in terms of profits and customer satisfaction.
- Have faith in the favorites
There could be items on your menu that yield low profit. It might be tempting to strike these off your menu, but check your usage reports first. These items might be getting you a small profit, but could be offsetting that with high sales.
To gain more value from these items, you might want to consider adjusting portion sizes and/or prices instead, especially if there is high demand.
- Let your customers know
Keep your patrons in the loop about the changes that you are about to undertake. It is easier now with the different social media sites available to you. Plus, this can help generate renewed excitement for your establishment.
Changing your restaurant’s menu is a daunting task. But as scary as it may seem, your restaurant needs to evolve if you want it to remain competitive.
Ahmad Alzaini is the co-founder and CEO of Foodics, a fast-growing foodtech startup. A businessman by nature, Alzaini is an app aficionado, developing businesses in Saudi Arabia within several industries.
Today, Foodics has extended to new markets across the MENA region, processing over 1 billion transactions, and offering the latest technology in POS and restaurant management.