Menu Makeover for a Beautiful Bottom Line

Nearly half of Americans eat at least one meal away from home each day, which leads to hundreds of restaurant visits a year! Every encounter involves a menu, print, chalkboard or digital signage, that helps customers navigate the choices available. Menus are important for customers to help guide them on what the restaurant offers, but knowing how to cost a menu is critical to the financial operations of a restaurant.

This month’s BlueCart Dinner Series at the Food Service Technology Center focused on how to create value and drive profits by creating effective menus.

Organization of the menu is key. Gregg Rapp, a Menu Engineer for over 30 years, joined us to share his expertise on designing effective menus to a full room of over 50 attendees. He assists clients to crack the code on menu layout along with rearranging the placement of items to add more profitability to the bottom line. Take one client who served Maryland Crab Cakes…after working with Gregg, he learns that this item holds the honor of being his highest profit margin. Due to its placement, buried within a busy menu, it went unnoticed most of the time. Gregg performs his “menu magic” to strategically redesign the menu, and voila, this item is now bringing in 25% more profit than before.

Greg starts by organizing each menu, identifying food costs and profit margin, and examines the sales mix of the menu. He then redesigns the menu to optimize profitability. He warns clients about offering free items for promotions that may not be best for their bottom line. Draught beer is the least profitable on the beverage menu – and what do most bars promote? You got it! Draught beer (penny pitchers anyone!?). Branded coasters, neon signage and other materials driving sales to the beverage that isn’t doing much for your bottom line.

The way customers read a menu is based on the layout of a menu and each has a different method. For instance, with a three-panel menu, the sweet spot is both the middle and the upper right-hand corner of the menu. These are the first two spots our eyes travel when seeking choices. Other tips from Gregg including highlighting an item using a call out box, use illustrations to create fantasy photos, use columns (like a newspaper) to make a menu easier to read, create sections and never put more than seven items in a section. This last fact is from Brian Wansink, Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and author of Mindless Eating a study done at Cornell.

Gregg offers this advice:

Look at your restaurant’s personality and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Why did you open the restaurant?
  2. When did you open? Why this location?
  3. What makes your restaurant different? What are you known for?
  4. How would your customers best describe your restaurant?
  5. What are your specialties?
  6. What is the best-selling item on the menu?
  7. Where did your recipes originate?
  8. Who is your chef? What experience/training does your chef have?

By asking yourself these questions you’ll gain a thorough understanding of your bar or restaurant, your menu items and food costs, and how to best help your customers navigate your menu creating both happy customers and a happy bottom line.

Are you looking to control your food costs so you can better understand the true cost of each menu item, reduce waste, and run on leaner inventories? BlueCart can do just that by allowing you to consolidate your ordering process in a single platform that offers other important tools such as analytics. Sign up now or register for a demo to see what BlueCart can do to help your menu and bottom line.

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Thank you to our generous sponsors, Food Service Technology Center for hosting and Sonoma Syrup Co for your continued support.

To see upcoming BlueCart Dinner Table Series events, check out our Events Calendar!

For more information about Gregg Rapp, check out www.MenuEngineers.com or write to Gregg directly at Gregg@MenuEngineers.com

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A recent graduate from Virginia Tech, Matt Katz came to BlueCart as a young social media guru. When Matt isn't writing or putting together infographics, he can be seen running on the Georgetown canal!

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