Covid-19 Resources | Menu Planning

Reopening Successfully, Part 2: Menuing Strategies

Apr 30, 2020

Reopening Successfully, Part 2: Menuing Strategies

As states begin to relax shelter-in-place orders, operators are trying to figure out how to reopen safely and generate revenue at a time of uncertain demand. In this three-part series, Simplot representative Patrick O’Brien, a former restaurant owner, shares important strategies for labor management, menuing, revenue generation, and operations, to help you make more money and keep your customers happy.

With seating capacity reduced by social distancing guidelines, it’s going to be critical to make as much as you can from every seating and keep tables turning. Now is the time to take a hard look at your menu and make sure it’s optimized for profitability and operational simplicity.

Here are a few suggestions to ensure your menu is working in your favor:

Scale it back. Consolidate and rationalize slow-selling items that are only taking up space on your menu and inventory shelves. Focus on the items which represent 60-70% of your food revenue or look at your Top 10 selling items and consider scaling back the rest. Start with a temporary, short-term menu that’s profitable, easy to execute and requires less time and skill to produce (anticipating that you may have new, less experienced staff as you reopen).

Engineer your menu for profits. Menu engineering is a process for improving the layout of your menu (paper or online) to focus attention on your most profitable, best-selling items. According to menu consultant Gregg Rapp, menu engineering can increase a restaurant’s profits by 10% to 15% on an ongoing basis. Learn more about the principles of menu engineering here.

Keep it seasonal. When ingredients are in season, they’re usually less expensive because of the large supply. Focus on perishables like fresh vegetables when they’re least costly in summer and fall. Manage your protein offerings according to the season. Consider using Market Price on your menu instead of assigning one that over time could lose margin.

If you buy it by the pound, sell it by the pound. Take chicken wings, an item bought by the pound. The weight of the “dozen wings” you offer is highly variable. This variability can dramatically raise your food costs if you’re not careful. One way to mitigate this is to sell products like this by the pound, if that’s how you buy them from your supplier.

Look for deals. Finding discounts on ingredients is another way boost your profitability. Be proactive. Ask your sales reps and suppliers if they have anything on special. Do they offer contracts, bulk purchases, or guaranteed purchasing agreements that can lower your costs? What about their slow-moving inventory? If you’re doing a lot of volume, you may be able to negotiate special deals with your distributor and other suppliers.

Try combo pairings. Use free goods you may receive from a bulk buy to incentivize the purchase of a more expensive menu items. For example, if you received some promotional wine as part of a deal you made for the bar, use those bottles to sell more steak entrées and raise your spend per table. “Buy a steak, get a ($10/half price/discounted) bottle of wine!” Be sure to remain in compliance with local liquor laws.

Make sure your menu is on at least one online ordering platform. Online ordering is the new normal, with millions of people being introduced to it during the COVID-19 crisis. Whether you post it to Yelp! or one of the food delivery services, having visibility here is a must.

Your menu is one of the most important marketing pieces your restaurant has. It’s also your road map to profitability. Take the time you have before reopening to make sure your menu is working as hard as it can to bring in revenue and keep customers coming back.

If there’s any way we can make your reopening easier, please reach out to your Simplot sales representative. We’re here to help!