Assessing Your Menu – Are You Offering the Right Choices?

By Editorial Staff

Creating a menu that makes sense for your restaurant can be challenging. If you open a restaurant/bar that serves wings and beer, it seems like an easy decision: wings. A lot more goes into menu planning, though, because man (and woman and child) cannot exist on wings alone. At the very least, you want to offer some variety.

Follow these steps to assess your current menu to help determine whether you’re offering the options your customers expect:

Know Your Demographic
You can’t please all people all the time, and this is a big pitfall many restaurateurs are victim to. First, figure out who your customer is. It’s clear who the target demographic is of a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, but your concept may not be so cut and dry. Follow the line of your concept to your customer and your location. If you’re choosing to serve meals made with locally sourced ingredients and your restaurant is downtown, you know you want to keep your menu small and simple with a few meat choices, meatless options, and a robust appetizer section. Fine dining restaurants follow different guidelines. A sports bar is in a category all its own.

Price Everything
A profitable menu is one that has been priced down to every single ingredient. First, figure out which of your menu items are the most popular and then break down the cost of a plate. Now compare the actual cost of the food and the menu price – your food cost should be about 30 percent of what you’re charging. If it isn’t, you need to adjust it.

Delicious food is one thing, but running a successful restaurant and keeping customers happy is about more than the dishes you offer. Your menu items should be quick and easy to prepare, whether it’s from ingredients and components prepared earlier in the day or from the moment a customer orders it. Time your kitchen staff on each meal to make sure you aren’t making customers wait too long. A dish that takes too long to serve not only means antsy customers, it also means slow turnover.

Consider Other Customers
Just because you own a sports bar, say, and you expect a certain type of customer, you’re going to occasionally have someone who doesn’t quite fit in your target demographic. Therefore, it’s important to offer simple, kid-friendly options like a grilled cheese sandwich or chicken nuggets. It’s also a good idea to offer a couple of vegetarian meals for those who aren’t a fan of burgers and wings – and make sure they can easily be prepared for vegans.

Make It Versatile
One of the best ways to save money on food costs and offer more options on your restaurant’s menu is to use the same ingredients in various meals. If you offer steak at your eatery, you can also offer a steak salad, a steak wrap or a steak sandwich. Similarly, lobster is a pricey item, but you can offer appetizers using this ingredient, or a lunch menu item, such as a lobster roll or lobster mac ‘n cheese.

Once you have your menu design down, test it with a soft opening for a couple of weeks and take the feedback from your customers seriously. Sift through the orders and figure out what your most popular dishes are and which ones your customers never order, then reconsider your options.

Image from Syda Productions/Shutterstock

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