How To Simplify Your Menu

What Are We Talking About?

A large menu is rarely a beneficial part of a restaurant. It’s one of the first things that Robert Irvine and Gordon Ramsay of Restaurant: Impossible and Kitchen Nightmares decry and dismiss, as a large menu weakens the abilities of the staff and the interests of the consumer.

Who Should Do This?

Any restaurateur or chef with a money issues, inventory issues, training issues, or a clientele that aren’t exactly sure what your style of food is. The benefits range from a clearer restaurant goal and vision, less recipes (leading to higher-quality and efficiency in the remaining ones), less cost and loss, and better knowledge of the dishes by the wait staff.

How Do I Simplify My Menu?

  1. If you don’t have a record of your dishes and how frequently they sell, start tracking such metrics. Look at, for example, every dish that sells over the course of a month.
  2. Knock out clear winners and losers. If you sell soft drinks with 90% of orders, you’d be foolish to remove them. On the other hand, if one brand of soft drink is dominating all the others, while another hasn’t had one request in a month, you might want to consider removing that one and replacing it with another. This simple guideline can be applied to all dishes, desserts, sides, and more on a menu. If the basic cheeseburger is a consistent seller, keep it, but if the avocado Swiss turkey burger doesn’t sell, it might be time to move on.
  3. Consider what type of restaurant you run. If you’re running a Mexican restaurant, items such as chicken tenders might not exactly fit with the theme. If you run an Asian buffet, pizza isn’t exactly traditional. While a good variety is appreciated to appeal to picky eaters, these lapses lead to a dilution of the brand. McDonald’s no longer sells pizza, for example.
  4. Keep your inventory simple and concise. If only one dish on the menu uses avocados or bananas (or anything that doesn’t keep for long), and that item doesn’t sell, it might just not be worth keeping that item on the menu for the loss and rapid replacing of the stock of that ingredient.
  5. Forego extravagance. There are times where a dish might take longer to cook than others; customers might find the wait not worth the final result, especially if they’re not prepared to leisurely wait for the dish.

Never…

  • … get rid of items people are talking about positively, unless they’re too cost-prohibitive or enjoy a “limited time” culture.
  • … hold on to something that doesn’t contribute to your “brand” and doesn’t sell. This is no time to keep stuff that doesn’t add value.
  • … sell a dish for less than it costs in inventory or man-hours. This is simple business, but can always be reminded of.

Be careful…

  • … and don’t drastically change the menu, unless things are dire. Regular customers appreciate consistency in their visits.

Definitely try…

  • … a hidden menu. “Secret Menus”, traditionally including common ingredients in uncommon situations, are highly sought after with customers, as they breed a culture of “in the know” and enjoyable secrecy. For example, you might regularly sell a bacon cheeseburger and a cheesesteak sandwich. If it succeeds, you might want to try a “bacon cheesesteak burger” on the secret menu, combining the best of both dishes with no more ingredients than you already have (at an appropriate price, of course).