What is a restaurant menu if not a list of dishes with prices? Many would like to believe so. Bad! You might often think that a restaurant menu is an entire food and drink catalog, but in reality (and technically), it’s much more than a few colored pages. While it’s a healthy showcase of what you offer your customers, it’s also your path to profitability.
Read on, as we break down why and how your restaurant menu needs to evolve and change from time to time.
How often should a restaurant menu change?
The pandemic has caused a huge shift in people’s eating habits and the food they prefer, whether they’re eating out or ordering. Additionally, as our lifestyles are constantly changing, customers also expect changes in the food they eat at their favorite restaurants. This has prompted many restaurateurs to revamp their menu and for some it’s the new normal, while others are going back to their old favourites.
Let’s say you want to change your restaurant’s menu, how often should you do it? Research indicates that you should update your menu at least once a year, or seasonally. For example, if your summer menu includes lots of refreshing and spicy dishes with fresh seasonal produce, your winter menu may not include so many. From autumn to the cold season, your menu should offer something heartier and heartier. Depending on the type of establishment you have, you need to upgrade or update your offer. In some cases, you might also want to go for a complete overhaul, depending on how long you’ve been running the menu and how often you’ve changed it. Reviewing your menu from time to time is also good for your overhead and helps manage unnecessary expenses.
Should you stick with the restaurant’s old menu or bring in a flavor innovation?
First, it is important to understand what we mean and mean by “changes”. You don’t necessarily need to completely throw out your current menu unless it’s absolutely not working for your customers or your bottom line. One exception is farm-to-table restaurants that operate seasonally. Thus, once the season is over, your restaurant menu must be redesigned. For other cases, here are some best practices that might be helpful.
Introducing new flavors – People love novelty and adding something new to your existing restaurant menu is sure to fulfill that desire of your customers. You can introduce a few new dishes (or classic dishes with different ingredients) that are trendy and innovative, something your customers wouldn’t expect but would love to see on the menu. It adds diversity to your menu while keeping your top sellers and customer favorites intact. You can organize them as specials (weekends, festivals, special days, etc.), with your regulars. Alternatively, depending on how much time you added
Old menu, new package – This is a middle ground approach when you don’t want to change your entire menu, but want to add something refreshing to it. The visual experience is the key to the purchase decision. And that’s the golden rule of sales and marketing. Although your customers love your current menu, a little touch-up can change that to “love” and “excitement”.
From changing the dish name and description to adding a new color, the latest photo(s) of the dish, and even the font, you can be strategic in the smallest places and make big changes. Another important change introduced by successful restaurants is the display of prices. Many large establishments got rid of the $ sign. This makes customers focus less on the good side and pay more attention to the dish and what they want. Some places have even waived the price part entirely, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Stick to Favorites – You know how we often say, “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke”? Well, the thing is, your restaurant menu might not be broken per se, but customers are constantly looking for change, while looking to keep their favorites when they visit your restaurant. To balance these two needs, you can keep dishes that are i) profitable and popular and, ii) draw crowds, even if they don’t always fill the cash register. This is not only good for attracting customers, but it also preserves your brand image.
To answer the question we posed earlier, there is no absolute answer. Ultimately, changing a restaurant’s menu is a matter of trial and error and it all comes down to cost and resource availability. But whatever you try, every time you introduce a change, you need to closely monitor and analyze the metrics and see how the changes affect your sales as well as your establishment’s popularity.