Menu Makeover: Do You Need It?

The menu is the heart and soul of your restaurant. It’s the declaration of the products you sell, it’s amended when you remove items, and it’s enlarged when you try new items out. It’s a guideline for customers to see how far they can go on customizing their dish, going from getting a hamburger without the pickles you traditionally offer to asking for a side that’s not listed, or even an attempt at customizing something to the chef’s capabilities.

A large menu tends to be unwieldy, especially for any restaurant that might be a 24-hour diner. A single page, updated daily with regards to available foods and ingredients, might be a little too work-filled, updating daily being an impossibility for any chef hoping to hold onto their sanity. Frequently changing the menu might keep some people coming in to try new things, but it might throw traditionalists off who like their one dish every time.

One of the best ways to get input on your menu is to see what larger companies have succeeded (or failed) with. If these companies have hundreds of staff that can analyze trends and adjust accordingly, you’d be foolish not to learn something from them.

IHOP: The Science Of Selling More

The International House of Pancakes has put menu science to good use, according to Bloomberg. They have posted a video that sums up the various reasons why IHOP has succeeded with a redesigned menu. Key items of knowledge to take away from their success include

  • Navigation is aided via color-coordination, allowing customers to find the type of foods they are looking for.
  • Sides are supported by being localized in boxes.
  • Pictures help break up the menu and both highlight and introduce new menu items.

Simply breaking up the page with images, colors, and segmenting items into easy-to-read boxes and pages have led to IHOP sales going up 3.6% for the restaurants using the new menu.

McDonald’s: Tried To Sell More, Lost

Burger Business reports that McDonald’s considers 2013 to be a year where they overcomplicated the menu. This is a year that introduced the new Mighty Wing, a line of Premium McWraps, new varieties of Quarter Pounders, McChicken, standard hamburgers, steak-based breakfast sandwiches, fish-based McBites, and a revised Dollar Menu.

U.S. sales have slightly dipped for McDonald’s, a problem attributed to the quickly-changing menu in chains. They believe that new items released with such frequency caused trouble in the kitchen, ordering, and even consumer confusion. Their goal is for restaurants to not eliminate items, but to be better prepared to handle a variety of ingredients, allowing customers to customize more.

Having looked at both companies success and failures, it’s clear that a simple menu is better, and introducing items all-too frequently can cause confusion for both customers, kitchen, and wait staff. Keeping things simple and highlighting your strengths and eliminating weaknesses are clear ways to improve any restaurant’s profit and clarity.