Menu Refresh: Good or Bad Idea?
Feel like your menu is a bit lackluster? Even the most popular menus can seem a bit dull with time. Many restaurants choose to update their menu constantly, and although this can be a successful practice, it must be done with care. The last thing you want is to lose patronage by removing dishes people love. So, what type of menu changes can be positive on your ROI? Keep reading to find out.
Seasonal Changes for Restaurant Menu Updates
Want to capitalize on this year’s tomato season with a fresh gazpacho? Or make an apple tart using local Honey Crisp apples? Some produce is at its best at only a short time per year. But just because an ingredient is seasonal doesn’t mean the menu item should be ditched. Adding a seasonal menu that changes every quarter is a great way to enhance your menu offerings, and appeal to customers looking for local and farm-fresh ingredients. Learn more about adding a seasonal menu to your restaurant here.
Don’t forget about seasonal favorites like pumpkin spice in the fall, peppermint in the winter, lemons in the spring, and raspberries in the summer. These yummy ingredients make for delectable treats that your restaurant can offer for a limited time, increasing demand to buy now, before they go out of season. Try adding new drinks to your menu quarterly as well, such as a pumpkin beer in the fall.
Daily, Weekly, or Monthly Menus
Many new restaurants have a new menu daily, weekly, or monthly. These types of restaurants can be very popular and keep customer’s anticipation high. The key to the success of these restaurants (in addition to the food quality) is the consistency and frequency by which menu changes happen. The changing of the menu is part of the restaurant’s theme and identity, and customers may flock to the restaurant solely for new menu offerings. In contrast, customers will expect the same menu items at restaurants that rarely change their menu, which can upset customers who come back expecting certain meals.
Adding new menu items can sometimes help in boosting sales, especially if those items are on-trend. Be sure to keep up with the latest trends in the culinary world. Remember, you can always add an item to your specials before putting a permanent place on your menu. This will also help keep your menu short. Too large of menus can confuse your customers and employees and decrease the quality of the food.
NAHA owner and Chef Carrie Nahabedian told Forbes, “To stay relevant, you must challenge yourself, your team, and this inspires the entire restaurant to be sharp. This is what keeps clients coming back.” She changes her menu on a regular basis, which keeps her Chicago-based restaurant fresh and relevant, with droves of new customers every day.
Annual Menu Updates
Restaurants are finding that annually updating the menu helps to maintain a good balance between costs and profits. A menu analysis gives you a chance to revisit food costs and find cheaper alternatives, and to toss any duds on the menu. Below, we share more on the benefits of updating your restaurant menu, what to look out for, and how to harness the power of your POS system to help you.
When Food Costs Change
Because the price of produce fluctuates throughout the year, it’s important to analyze your food costs regularly. The specials are calculated every time a purchase order is made, so the real problems tend to be the mainstay dishes that are available year-round. And it’s no wonder; at the time the menu prices were first made, certain ingredients might have been cheaper. Several months later, that same dish might be 20% more expensive, eating into the profit margin.
To find out how much each dish costs, calculate the actual food costs as closely as possible to make sure the price you’re selling that item for makes sense. Second, speak with your chef about food waste. Ingredients spoil, and if there is food being ordered, that doesn’t make it to customers’ plates, profitability suffers. If waste can be attributed to buying some ingredients in bulk, check out the prices other vendors are offering for the amount of food you really need.
As a general practice, you should be comparing the prices of other vendors and your current suppliers. You might find an alternate source for the same quality at a lower price that saves you hundreds or thousands every month. Knowing what’s being offered also gives you leverage to negotiate with your current vendor.
When a Menu Item Is a Dud
Look for the Outliers: Most restaurants have menu items that are rarely ordered and sometimes cost more than you make. Doing a biannual analysis of your menu and your profit per dish is always a good idea. If some menu items are straining on your overall ROI, lowering the price or removing those items altogether may be a good idea. Just be sure if you are removing a dietary conscience item (like vegetarian, or gluten-free), that you replace it with something else. The last thing you want is to alienate your customers that have dietary restrictions.
When POS Reports Show a Loss on Menu Items
To get started, generate an annual sales report on your restaurant POS.
You’ll see quickly, which are your “Top Sellers.” They are generating huge revenue for the business, and the number amount is high. (The exception being that you may have one or two very expensive items on the menu that are not ordered often, but when they are, bring up the sales number considerably.) Very often, the Top Sellers are considered the customers’ favorite dishes.
The majority of your dishes belong in the “Consistent Sellers” category. These dishes are most likely the “bread and butter” of the menu. They are reliably sold, and for that reason, are the dishes to pay particular attention to in terms of food costs.
In the final section, you find the “Low Sellers.” These are the items that are rarely ordered, and when they are, barely make an impact on your bottom line. Identify these and calculate their cost. You might find that you are spending more money on having them available for customers than you are making on them. If that’s the case, move them into the “Dud” category and cut them out of the menu.
By slashing duds from your menu, you save on food costs and increase profitability right away.
Don’t Forget the Bar Menu
The same rules apply to your cocktail and drinks menu. Use your bar pos system to generate sales and inventory reports to identify costly ingredients and poor sellers. Done well, a bar menu can make up nearly 30% of your sales. Try offering a survey to your bar patrons to ask what drinks they’d like to see on the menu, and selecting the most popular as a menu addition for a limited time. You’ll generate a buzz, engage customers, and add a popular bar menu item.