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Optimizing Restaurant Menu Mix

How to change your menu to get more business

Restaurant menus, drinks and a newspaper on a table.

This post is a contribution from Celena Tyler, Product Manager at Avero.

A good menu is one of the most important contributing factors to having a successful restaurant business. It’s simple: You want your guests to enjoy their meals, and you want to make money. You don’t want to waste time and inventory making menu items that don’t make some kind of profit or don’t sell at all.

Avero works with 10,000 restaurants around the world to optimize their menu, among many other aspects of their business, so we’ve learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t.

Here are some restaurant menu optimization tips and best practices from the Avero experts:

A graphic of a grid showing the hierarchy of where to place items on a restaurant menu.

Look at how your menu items are actually performing.

Understanding how your current menu is performing is the first step to optimizing it. Focus on one menu category at a time, and rank items in each category by item per cover percentage over a period of at least one month to best understand their true popularity. Add your food costs to compare the popularity to the profitability of each item. Once you have this information, group your menu items as Stars, Dogs, Plow Horses or Puzzles:

  • Stars: Extremely popular menu items with high contribution to profit margin (high, high)

  • Plow Horses: Popular menu items with low contribution to profit margin (high, low)

  • Dogs: Unpopular menu items with low contribution to profit margin (low, low)

  • Puzzles: Unpopular menu items with high contribution to profit margin (low, high)

Make the necessary adjustments.

  • Stars: Even your best sellers have room for improvement. Consider increasing their prices or packaging them with Puzzles for even better contribution to profit margin.  

  • Plow Horses: Try adjusting their ingredients to optimize food costs. If you can increase their profit margin without taking away what your guests love about them, you can easily change Plow Horses to Stars!

  • Dogs: Ask your servers how these can be improved, then change the way they sell them. You can even create contests around them! If that doesn’t work, it’s time to take the Dogs off the menu.

  • Puzzles: Although unpopular, you want to keep Puzzles on the menu from a financial perspective. Tweak their menu placements or descriptions, alter their appearance, re-train servers on how to passionately describe them, or run promotions around them.

Do it all over again.

To truly see the impact of your work, you’re going to have to do this exercise on a seasonal or monthly basis, or any time you significantly change your menu. You’ll also have to pay attention to how your changes affect guest behaviordo you see a change in item per cover percentage? Do you see an uptick (or downtick) in sales? If not, tweak your changes and try again until you see the results you want.

Let Avero help you optimize the performance of your restaurant’s menulearn more and get started today!

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