Planning a Menu for Success

Restaurant Menu
Restaurant Menu

This post is courtesy of our guest blogger Scott Simon:

A well-planned menu is one of the keys to a successful restaurant. It is important to know what you customers want and how to design the menu so that it is appealing. Before you can plan your menu you need to know and understand the market you want to target. You probably will not want to create a high-priced menu with French cuisine if your restaurant is in a college town with a large, young student population and a small population of residents with high disposable income. If your restaurant is an in area with a large population of senior citizens you should use large font that can be easily read in dim lighting.  If you own a family restaurant you can make your menu more appealing to children by including interest artwork and picture of the dishes.

One way of getting to know your target audience is by conducting a surveys or a marketing audit. You can do this with survey forms or a suggestion box in your restaurant. You should also research trade publications and your competition. Look at their menus, what they are offering and the prices they charge. When you know what your customers want and what other restaurants in the area are charging this will help you create an appealing menu that will give you the edge over the competition.

The layout of the menu should mimic a typical dining experience. Appetizers, soups and salads should be listed first. Next entrees, then desserts and beverages should be listed. The menu description of you entrees and dishes should be detailed and vivid so they create an appealing image. The description should not be too long because you will use up valuable space and most customers on read 1/3 of what’s written. It’s a good idea to include the price in the description to avoid comparison shopping. Place your best-selling items as the first or last couple of dishes on the menu. On a two panel page people usually look at the top right side first. On a three panel page people usually look in the middle first and then counter clockwise. Popular menu items should be placed here. Make sure the menu is well spaced and not too cluttered. This can include using boxes, different fonts and graphics just as stars and bullets. These can increase revenue by as much as 15 %. Listing more expensive menu options first might also increase your profits as many people may choose the first item they see.

Plan your menu wisely by calculating the cost of food and what you are charging for each dish. Make sure you work with your supplier to ensure that you have enough of the ingredients on stock to make popular dishes. If you cannot offer popular dishes on the menu this will lead to customer dissatisfaction and it will make your restaurant appear unorganized.  Offering samplers and combination plates is a good way to expose your customer to more of what you have to offer and may encourage repeat business as customers come back to order the full dish of what they tried. If you have a family oriented restaurant offer a children’s menu. Children do not eat adult-sized food and this will lead to waste. The prices should be lower, which parents will appreciate, because the portions are smaller. Children’s tastes are different than adults and dishes such as fillet of sole will not be appealing to them. Offer kid popular menu items such as chicken fingers, pizza, junior burgers, macaroni and cheese and fish sticks.

Offering more nutritional information will please your customers. Make note of vegan, gluten-free, lite heart-healthy and low sodium entrees. You can distinguish these dishes with a graphic such as a heart symbol or different font for the name of the entrée. Many restaurants also list the calories for health conscious diners. If you use organic or locally sourced ingredients be sure to include information on your menu. Many customers are more ecologically conscious and will gladly pay more grass-fed beef, wild salmon or free-range chicken.

Showcase your signature entrees by including a photo of the food, You should also offer crowd-pleaser favorites that appeal to most people such as pasta dishes and popular appetizers such as buffalo wings and bruschetta.  By following these simple tips you will have happier customers and a more profitable restaurant.

Scott Simon lives in Chicago and has been working for Affordable Seating for several years as a contributor and restaurant furniture/seating expert. He uses his knowledge of interior design and the restaurants business to give advice on matters important to the food service industry. His experience in design and in the field offers a unique insight for businesses in the restaurant and hospitality industry.

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