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Menu Engineering Part 2

Menu Engineering Part 2

As suggested in my previous menu article, if you calculate, cost and record the sales of each dish, then you can design your menu to be as profitable as possible. Use suggestions (recommendations), positioning, positive descriptions and perhaps illustrations to guide your customers to certain selections. Allow your clients to choose dishes from the menu that are, in an ideal world, nourishing, tasteful and value for money – as well as produce a healthy and nourishing bottom line for you.

In this article I hope to show you some basic design techniques that may assist to direct attention to certain dishes that you have calculated to be profitable ones. In that previous edition (April 2008) of this series of articles on menus, we discussed how to determine which dishes are profitable ones. We spoke of obtaining an up to date food costing for each dish based on a percentage of the selling price as well as the actual dollar value. Armed with this information we can begin to sell more of the profitable dishes (Stars) and less of the unprofitable ones (Dogs). To do this we need to become an Expert!

Today we live in a society of experts, in various fields; consultants, specialists etc. who all affect various facets of our lives. These people may range from a personal trainer to a specialist teacher to a specialist medical practitioner. The point here is that we all have learned, or have been conditioned to allow others, to make decisions for us. We accept that there are people that know more than us in certain facets or areas of our lives.

Why don’t you become the expert in your chosen field of expertise? Develop a reputation to be, in the eyes of your customers, consciously or subconsciously, the expert. If customers feel confident that there in the right place then their more likely to be receptive to your suggestions, and, your advice. Evidence of this may be when a regular comes in and says, “What’s good on the menu today?”; This is a genuine recognition of your opinion and the way you do things. The art, however, is to make as many customers align themselves with the same positive expressions of interest.

Being an expert is easy for me to say. Right! Unless you have an enviable position that allows you to replace one customer with another, we must make the customer feel that their in good hands and we must be able to instill confidence by making our customers feel that their experience, in your premise, is positive. Always!

To do this, as previously touched on in the first article (Dec 2007), every facet of the operation must be scrutinized so that service procedures front of house and back of house work together in a team environment where continual service systems improve and flourish.

Position, ambiance, general service levels are hard to quantify as to how they translate in the eyes of your customers unless data is obtained through the use of well conducted and analyzed internal surveys containing specific questions relating to specific criteria.

Your menu is the only real sales tool that measures the success of your venue based on, total sales, average sales, no. of sales and a further breakup of each using manual or automated POS systems.

Every one of your customers has to read it, so why don’t we Advertise it on the menu.

That’s right just like I just did. I drew your attention to the words (on the line above) by making the words stand out. I’ve printed it bold, italics, and underlined it. Ask yourself. Why do items on a blackboard sell? Answer – because you advertise them as something special. An item on a blackboard is usually (depending on the venue’s overall environment) a recommendation or invitation to consume, and in the final analysis, to buy. If we agree that your hand held menu can work exactly the same way we are now on the same page (pardon the pun). Lets look at how a typical customer looks at a menu by analyzing eye focus studies. (below)

Sales Concentration

The arrows show where the eyes travel. You will notice the hot spots on the menu are just beyond the centre points on the pages. Conclusion – place items that you want to sell at the top half of the menu (and if available) the centre. This works just the same way as a newspaper where certain parts of the paper are more expensive to advertize in.

Further points are as follows:

Use descriptive terms that describe ingredients. Do not use frivolous descriptions that go on and on. It may advertise your depth culinary knowledge but may make the customer less safe and out of his or her comfort zone. Use recommendations that aid the selection process. Use terms like “Signature Dish” or “House Specialty” or other descriptive recommendations with simply an asterisk next to some dishes and the word at the top to bottom of the page as legend “Recommended”. If you don’t have a signature dish maybe it’s time to create one that is identified with your restaurant.

Sales Concentration

Enlarge or change the font style and size to create attention. Use shading or a different colour in the background. Put a box around a dish you wish to promote or simply allow a blank space around a description. Place side orders next main courses so the complementary nature of the two can work hand in hand. Menu copy or dishes on the menu can be divided up onto the following.


Description and Price

Place prices after the description using a normal spacing, font and size, not in a column on the right-hand side in a tabbed format. The title should be in bold for easier reading and the description in a normal font. Don’t use ($) dollar sign as the main criteria that your customers use to choose what to order. Most menus have a decimal point tab on the right-hand side of the page set so all the decimal points line up, almost as if we wish to publicize our ability to use the software that enables us to do this. What we have actually done is allow our patrons, if they choose to, to scroll down the prices column first see what is less expensive and potentially direct them to that dish.

Printing the menu yourself allows changes to be made relatively easily. To create a more professional look, print the pages without text (with just your design or logo on the paper) whether it is a frame or watermark etc. Keep the printed templates aside and print the menu over them when required.

Finally let’s not forget the overall look and feel of the menu cover itself. Making sure it is in keeping with the desired message and experience you want to project about your venue. Make sure that a regular cleaning roster exists to keep it presentable.

Once you determine which dishes are important sellers give some thought how to direct your patrons to them. Consider the assistance of graphic designers or more software or hardware if required.

Consider the menu as your primary selling tool. Position things well and it will do the talking to you.

PMQ’s Magazine Australia Information, as published, in this article, is intended be used as a guide only, and may not be necessary or apply to experienced restaurateurs, and may not suit all restaurants – professional independent advice is advised.