Is your menu holding down your sales?

Many restaurant owners want to blame everyone except themselves when they don’t reach their profit goals. It’s the competition, or the location, or the weather, or the season that’s affecting their profits, not anything they did themselves.

But if you want to look for extra sales and profits, I would suggest looking at your menu.

Restaurant owners are usually proud of their menus, and are sometimes averse to changing it. But it’s possible to actually build more success into your menu. Here’s how:

  • Look at what’s selling. Do a careful study of what customers are buying and what they are not. If an item or items are not working, be ruthless — scratch them off your menu.
  • Identify your signature items. You should have at least five items on your menu that generate buzz — that appear on social media, in restaurant reviews and in word of mouth. If you have at least five signature items, you need to create them. Go into R&D mode — cook, test and cook again. If you can land a handful of Sigs, buzz will go up, sales will go up and hopefully, so will profit.
  • Think about the size of your menu. You need to have a large enough menu to entice and excite customers, but not so many items that you merely confuse them. An overly large menu can hurt a restaurant in several ways:
    • It forces you to order too much inventory, some of which will spoil;
    • It puts too many demands on the kitchen. It’s hard enough to cook 20 things well, let alone a hundred;
    • It confuses the customer. People don’t know what to choose. It causes them to choose items that may not be your best. Also, they will think (accurately) that you can’t do that many things well.

So what’s the right number of menu items? It depends. A good burger stand might get away with just 10. A chinese restaurant is going to need a lot more. In general, 25 items should be more than enough: for example, 7 entrees, 12 mains and 6 desserts. Over 30 menu items, and you should really be thinking about cutting back.

How to cut back:

  • List out your five most popular items. Keep those.
  • List out your five most profitable items. Keep those.
  • Delete your least profitable and least ordered items.
  • For anything else that falls in between, keep a balance of items based on price, taste and difficulty in preparation.

Try these steps and hopefully you will see profit improvement … no matter what the weather is outside.

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